Monday, August 18, 2008

Openers Jayasuriya, Sehwag in explosive duel: Lanka count on Sanath factor

Dambulla: Big named players who have dual roles always get that extra pat on the back from their captains. Srilanka's left-handed opener Sanath Jayasuriya may be 39, but remains a bowler's nightmare with his ability to change the course of a match with devastating stroke-play. India will not easily forget their last encounter with the Sri Lankan, who hammered a quick-fire century under pressure to set up his team's victory in the Asia Cup final in Karachi last month. Listening to Mahendra Singh Dhoni and Mahela Jayawardene about the stars in their squads always explains a certain admiration society. They cannot be blamed either as it is a case of match-winning efforts from those who believe in living on the edge.

What doesn't come as a surprise is that for Dhoni it is Virender Sehwag and Jayawardene it is Sanath Jayasuriya who produces the comments. It is all good hype as the Idea Cup ODI series is about to be launched here in the heart of what is Sri Lanka's cultural triangle

It was Dhoni who pointed out the value of Sehwag and Jayasuriya to either side.

"In any form of cricket whether in Test or one-dayer, the start (to an innings) is important. But it does not mean the entire pressure is on the openers to always give you a good start.

"Sehwag is sort of a player who takes a bit of risk. He is a strokeplayer and there is a fair amount of risk involved. So whenever he gives us a good start then we get a fair chance to win the game.

"He is also presently in a very good nick as he and Gautam Gambhir have played well in the Test series also. Of course they will have some added responsibility but no real pressure," Dhoni explained.

What he didn't say is how both batsmen shaped well against Ajantha Mendis, the new mystery spinner with a record 26 wickets in the recent three-match Test series. They learnt the trick is to hit the bowler straight and not try and work him square off their legs.

Jayawardene took a similar viewpoint with his former captain Jayasuriya and the value he added to the Sri Lanka team.

"When in form he (Jayasuriya) is always a great value because he can add so much with the bat and as well when he is bowling," Jayawardene enthused. "He can always contribute. And the start he gets us makes a huge difference.

"If he stays in for say ten or fifteen overs you are guaranteed a good start. He's a bit like Sehwag is for India. That gives you a different dimension to our set-up," he added.

Both sides indicated that they are planning a six batsmen-five bowlers scenario, but nothing is decided. It could depend on the state of the pitch.

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