Fri, Jul 29, 2005 - Page 22 News List

India, Sri Lanka, Windies search for secret formula

AFP , DAMBULLA, SRI LANKA

India, Sri Lanka and the West Indies head into a triangular one-day series here with each struggling to find a winning formula.

The three teams have been hit form, fitness and selection problems, making none of them strong favorites in the tournament which opens at this Buddhist town tomorrow with a day-night match between India and Sri Lanka.

India are without their world record-holding opener Sachin Tendulkar, ruled out following an elbow surgery. His absence has affected the balance of the team, especially at the top order.

The West Indies are without their top batsmen, including Brian Lara, following a contract dispute between players and their cricket board. Their depleted team lost both recent Tests against the hosts.

Sri Lanka, meanwhile, are concerned about the form of their key batsmen and fitness of ace seamer Chaminda Vaas, who is a doubtful starter for the initial matches due to a hamstring strain.

"We had a disappointing tour of Sri Lanka last year, but that does not mean it will be the same this time also," said India's new captain Rahul Dravid, leading the country for the first time in a full series.

Under recently appointed coach Greg Chappell, India will be hoping to improve on their record of just nine victories in 23 one-dayers last year, a poor return that included five victories against lowly the United Arab Emirates, Kenya and Bangladesh.

India's problems begin at the top as the absence of Tendulkar -- who has amassed 13,642 runs at an average of 44.43 in one day cricket -- has forced them to try out a new partner with the explosive Virender Sehwag.

India are already sweating over experienced batsman Sourav Ganguly, serving a six-match ban for his team's slow over-rate while captaining their team in a home series against Pakistan in April.

Gangulay, who has so far served two games of the ban, has been named as a 16th member of the squad as a pending decision by an arbitrator on his suspension is expected to be announced before the tournament starts.

Dravid at least has the luxury of having a full-strength bowling attack at his disposal, but expects his seamers and spinners to show more consistency in crunch situations.

The Indian bowling left a lot to be desired last season, especially in the home series against Pakistan who won four successive one-dayers after losing the first two to clinch the series 4-2.

Sri Lanka should be in confident mood having won the Test series against a weakened West Indian side, but the low scoring matches suggested their batting performance was below par.

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