MUMBAI- Twelve years on from that dream April 2011 night when a country of billions landed in a frenzy of delight, India take on Sri Lanka in another World Cup clash here on Thursday, albeit one that is poles apart from being termed an encore.
If that World Cup final was truly a battle of titans in every sense, the impending contest is more or less a battle of the unequals. India have hitherto marched on immaculately in pursuit of a third title and Sri Lanka have lost more than what they have won.
Unbeaten in six straight games and largely unchallenged for longer spans, India have displayed traits of being a champion side which has the knack of staging remarkable fightbacks.
India’s confidence is irrefutably high but greater is their self-belief and trust on skills — witnessed in the mini-storm created by Australia in Chennai when reduced to 2/3 or when England limited them to a modest 229/9 in Lucknow.
The doggedness to keep striking England until the defending champions were disintegrated was not only another display of their potential, but also a sign that India’s opponents must raise the performance bar significantly higher when it comes to facing Rohit Sharma’s team in this World Cup.
Coming into fray as a forced selection with India looking to answer Hardik Pandya’s absence by creating ‘balance’, Mohammed Shami has only provided the happiest of selection headaches with nine wickets — including a fifer — in only two appearances.
But the think tank led by captain Rohit and coach Rahul Dravid knows ‘Special Shami’ must be preserved for greater battles ahead — for India would still need Jasprit Bumrah fresh and firing to steer through remaining challenges in the league stage.
Sri Lanka are no pushovers but they have faltered more often than not in this World Cup after a superlative show in the qualification round.
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