CELKON Cup set for grand finale
PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad – Familiar foes will go at it again when India and Sri Lanka face off today for the CELKON Mobile Cup Tri-Nation Series trophy at Queen’s Park Oval.
Sri Lanka and India both endured losing starts to the tournament, but both finished strongly, leaving hosts West Indies out in the cold as they made the best of rainy conditions over the last three matches at the historic venue.
Sri Lanka eased to a 39-run victory over West Indies on Monday’s reserve day, while India turned up a day later, aided by the weather, to whip Sri Lanka by 81 runs. Both teams took advantage of Duckworth/Lewis adjustments to assure their respective finals berths, and India’s bonus point on Tuesday against the fellow Asians put them atop the standings.
As unforgiving as the Windies’ slip ups have been to their title ambitions, it will be even more so for today’s final. Second place in a three-team tournament is no consolation at all. India, the Champions Trophy winners, will be considered favourites after a strong finish to the group stage, but Sri Lanka have also showed they are capable of brilliance.
India captain Virat Kohli, though, believes they have the momentum going into the final, having won twice in succession.
“You can expect a really fighting performance by the team and we’re going to fight it out whatever the situation is, and try to be at the best of our potential and try to execute our skills properly,” Kohli told the media at yesterday’s pre-final press conference,
“Obviously we’ve played Sri Lanka a lot, they’re a quality side to reach the final, and we’re not going to take them lightly. We’re going to focus on our skills, and hope the result goes our way.”
On his role as captain in the absence of MS Dhoni, Kohli said it was unexpected, but that his players have made it easier on him.
“The guys have responded beautifully, so I didn’t have to really deal with tough situations,” Kohli said. “But whenever tough situations come, I have in mind that I’ve had that aspect that I’ve learn from [Dhoni] and try to apply that in the field. It spreads in the field and it spreads throughout the team as well.”
Sri Lanka, meanwhile, are “not too worried” about losing to India on Tuesday, according to skipper Angelo Mathews.
“We wanted to make a game out of it even though the conditions were tough,” Mathews explained. “It was spinning and seaming, but we still wanted to get the target (of 178 in 26 overs)…we’re not at all worried about what happened, but we need to flush that out of our system because we only have one day to recover.”
The bad news for the Sri Lankans is that they will be without their injured bowling spearhead Nuwan Kulasekara, who Mathews said would have been “unplayable” in the current Oval conditions. The skipper is confident, though, that the other bowlers will step up and fill the void.
Mathews paid tribute to former Sri Lanka captain and batting stalwart Mahela Jayawardene, who opened this tournament in place of the injured Tillakaratne Dilshan. He hailed Jayawardene as a “living legend”.
“I’m a great fan of Mahela Jayawardene because of the way that he bats,” Mathews stated. “He’s one of the best that Sri Lanka ever produced. The way he fights in the middle, the way that even when he plays a soccer game, a warm-up game, he wants to win.
“That attitude he carries to the game, he wants to win all the time and he gets the others going as well. It’s unbelievable to have him in the team.”