LEEDS: Pretty rows of redbrick Victorian terraces punctuates the cobbled streets that lead to the Headingley stadium. The laid-back suburb in the historic Yorkshire county will spring to life with the boisterous fans dancing to bhangra beats, cymbals and trumpets when India take on Sri Lanka on Saturday.
Even though India have qualified for the semifinals and Sri Lanka are playing for pride, the game has generated significant interest. Scoring two points will help India stand a chance to finish on top of the standings, provided Australia go down to South Africa in their last league match. Finishing the league as No.1 team will not only give India high confidence, but will also help avoid meeting England in the semis.
Statisticians will be on the edge as India’s ton machine Rohit Sharma is on the cusp something extraordinary. The leading scorer of the tournament can further enhance his reputation as one of the greatest in the format by scoring his fifth century of the edition. No batsman has hit more than four in a World Cup. The current record of four hundreds is held by Sri Lanka’s Kumar Sangakkara.
Another important milestone in Rohit's reach would be surpassing Sachin Tendulkar’s tally of 673 (2003 World Cup). The opener needs 129 runs to surpass the little master. Rohit has a special liking for Sri Lanka against whom he has scored two of his three double ODI hundreds.
Sri Lanka who have improved significantly since their disappointing opener are keen to see the back of Rohit early in a bid to end their tournament on a high.
“Every batsman has some weakness. We have been checking videos of Rohit and Virat Kohli. We have a plan for everyone. But for that, we have to execute the plans really well. We know they are really dangerous. Once they get set, they’re going for the big ones. We will try to restrict them from those plans,” said Dimuth Karunaratne, Sri Lanka captain.
The clash between Rohit and Lankan pacer Lasith Malinga will be an interesting contest. Malinga knows Rohit’s strengths and weaknesses like the back of his hand and he would be eager to get the better of his Mumbai Indians skipper.
India would be tempted to make use of the opportunity to test some different combinations. Ravindra Jadeja is the only member who hasn’t played a game. But it remains to be seen whether the management would rest its first-choice bowlers.
Jasprit Bumrah had made it clear that he would love to play as many games as possible. Mayank Agarwal, who joined the squad in place of the injured Vijay Shankar, hit the ground running during Friday’s optional training session.
Dinesh Karthik is likely to retain his spot in the middle-order which has an onerous task of proving that India are about more than just a Rohit Sharma show.