x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

India captain Dhoni may come back for final against Sri Lanka

Ruled out of the tournament, his presence on the field in pre-match warm-ups increase the likelihood that he will be back at the helm for the final.

MS Dhoni took part in the warm-up before the start of the second innings in India's match against Sri Lanka. Jewel Samad / AFP
MS Dhoni took part in the warm-up before the start of the second innings in India's match against Sri Lanka. Jewel Samad / AFP

India and Sri Lanka meet yet again today, this time in the final of the tri-nation series at Queen's Park Oval in Port of Spain, amid increasing speculation that MS Dhoni will be back to the lead the World Cup and Champions Trophy holders.

Dhoni sustained a right hamstring strain while batting against the West Indies in his team's first match of the tournament on June 30 and was ruled out of the rest of the competition with uncapped batsman Ambati Rayudu being flown in as his replacement.

However India's captain has remained with the squad, and while there has as yet been no official word from the touring party, his presence on the field in pre-match warm-ups and in full team uniform during and after the final group fixture against the Sri Lankans on Tuesday increase the likelihood that he will be back at the helm for the final.

The stand-in captain Virat Kohli hinted as much at the toss ahead of the comprehensive victory over Angelo Mathews' side when he expressed hope that Dhoni had been recovering well enough to be able to play if they had got through to the final.

Should he be passed fit, it is expected that Murali Vijay will make way for the captain, a shrewd thinker.

With or without Dhoni though, India are bracing for a much tougher Sri Lankan challenge than what transpired on Tuesday when India won by 81 runs.

Kohli said he had been pleased with how India had done thus far in the tournament after back-to-back defeats from the start.

"To bounce back like this and finish at the top of the table is a commendable effort," he said.

"I am very proud of the team. We have shown a lot of character. When three good teams are playing in the tournament, anything can happen."

Sri Lanka had all but qualified for the final ahead before Tuesday's encounter when fast-medium bowler Bhuvneshwar Kumar produced the outstanding figures of four for eight. Sri Lanka were bowled out for just 96 in the loss by Duckworth/Lewis method which reflected a noticeable lack of intensity.

After the match, Mathews had underlined the levels of effort required from his men - the Sri Lankans had to play for three straight days after Sunday's contest against the Windies rolled into Monday due to rain - and urged them to provide one last push.

"It was a tough wicket to bat on," he said. "We bowled well, but when we batted the pitch had been under covers and had sweated more. We had nothing to lose and went for the win.

"It's mentally and physically draining to play three days in a row. We have played some good cricket to get to the final. Hopefully we can beat India on Thursday."

Sri Lanka have their own injury concerns with a question mark lingering over the availability of fast-medium bowler Nuwan Kulasekara, who injured a finger on his left hand while attempting to take a return catch in the match against the West Indies on Monday.

Weather is likely to play a part again in the final and the toss will be a key factor today on a green, seamer-friendly pitch.

twitter Follow us @SprtNationalUAE