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India take on Sri Lanka in Compaq Cup 2009 final

The situation for the final of the Tri-series between India and Sri Lanka on Monday is anything but ideal. Indian skipper MS Dhoni, after their loss to Sri Lanka on Saturday said that it is difficult to judge the strength or weakness of a team based on the performance of the day/night encounters here where toss plays such a crucial role.

“Winning the toss itself tilts the balance 50% in your favour. And if you can put something around 230 or 250 on the board, it grows to 80%. It is not an ideal situation but that’s the way it is,” said the skipper.

“Conditions are like that here and you have to play. Having said that, I would like to add that one has to bat well after winning the toss. But I still say that the toss is crucial in these conditions,” he added.

Coach Gary Kirsten reiterates that the Indians are too good an outfit to lose a match with the toss itself, but the way the team crumbled against the Lankans chasing 307 belittles that. Kirsten and Co can’t do much about the toss. But the way the middle order slumped, once Rahul Dravid departed, during the last league game is something they tried working on during the optional practice session here on Sunday. Only five players – Yuvraj Singh, Virat Kohli, Praveen Kumar, Abhishek Nayar and Amit Mishra – turned up for the session with Kirsten, bowling coach Venkatesh Prasad and the support staff.

And Kirsten marked Yuvraj for a special session. Yuvraj has back-to-back failures in the two league matches. And he is India’s key player in the middle. When on song, he is one of the most stylish players in world cricket who makes batting look easy and effortless. He also has this ability to play a long innings if he gets going. So whether India are chasing or batting first, a lot depends on how the southpaw fares.

Lasith Malinga exploited his lack of foot movement early on the other night. So Kirsten was virtually trying to make his feet move by throwing balls a little fuller than good length from 15 yards and making him drive on the front foot. After about half an hour, Yuvi was ready for another round – this time with the tennis ball served hard at him at different lengths again from 15 yards away. He was defending well, driving with poise and leaving a few with elegance.

When asked if India are going into the final with the same combination, Kirsten said: “Haven’t decided yet. I am yet to talk to the captain.”

Sri Lanka too had an optional net session after their win the previous night. Their lone worry was the form of Sanath Jayasuriya. But now, even that is taken care of. Though off-spinner Muttiah Muralitharan didn’t play the last two games, because of a groin injury which he suffered during the Test series against New Zealand, he looks fit for Monday’s final.

Lankan skipper Kumar Sangakkara however remained non-committal on Murali, saying: “We don’t want to rush him with the Champions Trophy coming.”

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