Under normal circumstances an India-Sri Lanka contest invites a shrug from the legion of fans on both sides of Palk Strait. Such is the frequency with which the teams clash against each other on the cricket field these days.
Curiously though, India have faced-off against their sub-continental rivals only twice when it comes to the semi-finals of a tournament. India were victorious on one occasion, wining the last-four clash in the Australasia Cup in 1986, while Lanka triumphed in the incident-filled semi-final of the World Cup at the Eden Gardens in 1996.
They meet once again today, when MS Dhoni & Co lock horns with Angelo Mathews’ men at Sophia Gardens in Cardiff for a place in the final of the Champions Trophy. And although the former start as favourites, the Lankans are more than capable of upsetting every calculation that Indian fans would be drawing up as the game progresses.
30 years ago…
Meanwhile for Indian cricket addicts, today’s game would also send their minds racing back to the semi-final of the Prudential World Cup nearly 30 years ago when ‘Kapil’s Devils’ cruised past hosts England by six wickets before eventually triumphing against the West Indies at Lord’s.
Interestingly, just as the pitches in England have suited Dhoni’s team this time round, India were lucky to be playing on relatively slower and lower tracks, giving them more than a fighting chance against Bob Willis’ side in the crucial encounter.
Kapil Dev (3-35) ensured he wrapped up proceedings after Roger Binny (2-43) and Mohinder Amarnath (2-27) had displayed remarkable discipline as the hosts were bowled out for 213.
India were not going to be daunted by such a modest total, especially after the morale boosting fight-back against Zimbabwe, and all of their top-order batsmen fired in unison as the visitors overhauled the total with 5.2 overs to spare. Yashpal Sharma emerged their top scorer with 61 while Sandeep Patil (current chairman of India selectors) stayed not out on 51.
Amarnath (2-27 and 46) was awarded the man-of the match for his all-round show. While India were punching way above their weight in 1983, Dhoni’s side are strong contenders for the title this time. That’s pretty evident from the fact that they won all their three league games as well as the two warm-up clashes.
They seem to be operating like a well-oiled machinery and one only hopes will wrap things up in the same manner in which they started the tournament: very convincingly.