Sri Lanka’s impressive win against hosts West Indies on Monday has put India under additional pressure as they look to qualify for the finals of the ongoing tri-series. In the last league encounter of the tournament, they will take on the rampant Lankans who, with nine points from three games are all but through to the final. A victory will only confirm them as the top placed team after the league round. Even with a defeat, their chances of going out are rather slim, because they have a highly superior run rate. The only way Lanka can be ousted from the tournament is if India beat them so badly at Port of Spain on Tuesday that their net run rate slips under that of West Indies and India.
For India, on the other hand, a win is a must in this final league encounter against Sri Lanka. But, even that cannot guarantee them a spot in the final. If India indeed get the better of their Asian counterparts on Tuesday, it would mean a three-way tie between the teams, which means the two sides with superior net run rate will go through to the finals. Thus, India will have to play out of their skins to ensure that their run rate goes above at least West Indies if not Lanka. In such a scenario, India and Sri Lanka would qualify, and the hosts would be knocked out in spite of winning their first two games in the tournament.
There is another possible scenario as well, which looks like a far-fetched thought at the moment. If the Indians thrash Sri Lanka by a massive margin on Tuesday, good enough for them to gain a bonus point, they would jump to the top of the table with 10 points, and will directly qualify for the finals, without the run rate coming into the picture in their case. That would leave Sri Lanka and West Indies tied on nine points each. And depending upon how badly Sri Lanka have gone down to India, either of Lanka or hosts West Indies would qualify for the final as the second team.
While it all sounds easy on paper, things wouldn’t be as simple for India on the field. Remember, they would be running into a buoyant Sri Lanka who have won their last two clashes handsomely. They, in fact, badgered the Indians the last time the two teams met. Hence, India would be keen on getting things right in this match. Having lost the first two games quite disappointingly, India fought back well to beat West Indies and remain alive in the tri-series.
Skipper Virat Kohli is the master of run rate situations, having led India to unbelievable triumphs in the past. It would also help that he would be up against the Lankans, his favourite opponents. Kohli goes into the do-or-die match on the back of a magnificent century against the West Indies, so he would be in the right frame of mind. Lanka too have been on the receiving end of Kohli’s belligerence in the past. Thus they would be wary of him. In the end, it would all come down to how the teams manage pressure, India in particular.
--By A Cricket Analyst