India’s Mahendra Singh Dhoni
India’s Mahendra Singh Dhoni in action against Bangladesh. Reports say this is likely to be Dhoni’s last tour with the India team. Image Credit: Reuters

London: The India-Sri Lanka match is an inconsequential one at Headingley tomorrow.

India have already booked their place in the semi-finals and Sri Lanka are out of the World Cup.

So discussions now are centred around whether Mahendra Singh Dhoni will retire at the end of the World Cup.

There is so much focus on Dhoni now that even his bat has come in for close scrutiny just like his wicketkeeping gloves, which had recently created quite an uproar because of an army insignia early in the tournament.

Dhoni uses bats from different manufacturers, and it is said that he does not charge them as if he is thanking them for helping him at different stages of his career just before hanging his boots.

Quoting a BCCI official, the news is also going around that this is likely to be Dhoni’s last tour with the India team.

Amid talk of his retirement, there is also discussion over where Dhoni should bat in the coming crucial matches. Indian opener Rohit Sharma thinks Dhoni should bat at No. 4 while skipper Virat Kohli believes that Dhoni’s batting position should be No. 5.

These scenarios are being discussed because of Dhoni’s slow innings in some of the previous matches and the general impression is that he has lost the ability as a finisher.

There was also talk about whether Ravindra Jadeja, whom commentator Sanjay Manjrekar criticised as a “bits and pieces” player, will be given a chance.

Hence not many questions were shot to Sri Lankan captain Dimuth Karunaratne except on what is he expecting from the match. His response was: “We need to win the game to end up either in the fifth or sixth position. So we intend to do our best.”

Did Sri Lanka have a plan to stop the in-form Rohit Sharma?

Karunaratne revealed they had watched videos of all Indian batsmen including Sharma and Kohli, and have come up with a plan for them.

All they need to do is to execute those plans.

It seemed as if the Indian team management probably knew that questions to them would hover around the team’s make-up for the coming matches, Dinesh Karthik was nominated to address the prematch press conference since he is not authorised to talk on team composition.

Yet he wasn’t spared and he was asked questions on India’s middle order since he has come in place of Kedar Jadhav and whether there was any brief to him on how he should bat.

“I think they’ve been very clear on what my role will be,” he said. “When I go in at No. 7, I need to assess the situation of the game and then play accordingly. If we are batting second and we need to cross the line, then I need to pace myself accordingly. But if we are batting first, then we need to make sure we get to the par score that’s required.”

When he was tactfully asked about Jadeja, as to how players like him who haven’t played, can be prepared for the matches without being given any chance, Karthik defended the decision saying: “I think every member in this 15 prepares for every game believing that he will play. I say that because we get quite a few opportunities to hit in the practice against bowlers. So basically we’re treated like we’re playing in the 11, and we prepare accordingly. It’s only when the team is announced do we know whether we are in the final eleven or not.”

In Saturday’s late match, South Africa take on Australia, with the former side already out and the latter riding high at the top of the standings.

South Africa skipper captain Faf du Plessis believes Steve Smith and David Warner will be remembered for their cricket achievements rather than a ball-tampering scandal as they prepare to face the Proteas for the first time since last year’s controversial Test in Cape Town.

Then Australia captain Smith and Warner, his deputy, were both given 12-month bans for their roles in the build-up to an extraordinary incident that saw Cameron Bancroft apply sandpaper to the ball while fielding at Newlands in a breach of the rules.

But fast forward to the ongoing World Cup and an Australia side featuring Smith and Warner following the conclusion of their bans are in the semi-finals even before they face the Proteas in Saturday’s concluding group match at Old Trafford.

Meanwhile du Plessis, the home captain in Cape Town, is leading a South Africa side whose own hopes of a last four place disappeared long ago in the 10-team tournament.

Warner has scored more than 500 runs at this World Cup and Smith has looked in good touch as well, with du Plessis telling reporters at Old Trafford on Friday: “Certainly, they are extremely hungry to perform at international cricket again.

“I think any player that is as good as the two of them that will get taken away from playing at the highest stage will come back extremely motivated. And I think you can see that the two of them are and they are doing well and scoring runs.”

As for whether their careers would be known for ball-tampering above all else, du Plessis said: “Whether the game will remember them for that, I don’t think so. I think their records and their performances will speak much louder than one incident as a one-off.

Catch the Matches:

Sri Lanka v India
Venue: Headingley, Leeds
Start time: 1.30pm UAE

Australia v South Africa
Venue: Old Trafford
Start time: 4.30pm UAE

Broadcast: Matches shown on OSN Sports