Sri Lanka are out of this World Cup while India are heading into the semis as one of the favourites to win the title. The match between these two teams not only looks inconsequential but also likely to be one-sided. However, one only needs to cast their mind back to the 2017 Champions Trophy to realise that taking any match against Sri Lanka lightly can be very dangerous. In that tournament, Sri Lanka registered a surprise win against India despite being the second weakest team. In this World Cup, they have already upset England. So, there is no room for complacency.
But even apart from that, this match holds great importance for the Men in Blue. They have reached the semis easily but don't have a fully settled batting or bowling line-up. This will be their last game before the big semi-final, most likely against hosts England. Keeping this in mind, let's look at the biggest reasons for this match being very crucial for India.
No. 4 conundrum
The question of who should bat at no. 4 is still not settled in the India team despite many months having gone since it first became a problem. India started with KL Rahul occupying the slot but then he got shifted to opener's slot. This brought Rishabh Pant into that place in the batting order. However, there is still scope for improvement. While some want MS Dhoni to bat there, some others are barracking for Dinesh Karthik. This is India's last chance to test whoever they want to bat at that position in the semi-final.
Composition of bowling attack
India dropped Kuldeep Yadav for their game against Bangladesh. Considering how well Kuldeep has bowled in this tournament so far, it was a strange decision. India went in with three pacers but Mohammad Shami disappointed. While the latter has been a prolific wicket-taker in this tournament, he has proved to be very expensive in death overs. India can't afford that in the semis. So, it would be interesting to see what the bowling attack looks like against Sri Lanka. Most would expect it to have the combination of Kuldeep and Yuzvendra Chahal along with Jasprit Bumrah and Bhuvneshwar Kumar. However, Ravi Shastri and Virat Kohli have often made surprising decisions in the past. Will they do it again?
Question mark over Dhoni
MS Dhoni has been at the receiving end of criticism as well as concern owing to the way he has batted in this tournament. The former captain has looked quite vulnerable against spin and doesn't seem to have the firepower that he displayed in the IPL. Focus would again be on the legendary wicketkeeper-batsman as he looks to quieten his critics. If MSD continues to look uneasy against good spin bowling and is unable to provide the kind of finishing he used to, India would be severely handicapped in the semis. A big effort from him is desperately needed by Men in Blue.
Overdependence on Kohli and Rohit
It may sound strange but India would be greatly benefitted if both Virat Kohli and Rohit Sharma get out cheaply in this game. That will test the Indian middle-order that hasn't performed as well as expected. The batting order in incredibly dependant on Virat Kohli and Rohit Sharma and these two have scored runs, together or at least one of them, in all matches. India would be dreading the possibility of these two failing in the semis and exposing a frail middle-order. Hence, it might be very beneficial for India to lose these two batsmen early in the innings and have their middle-order produce a solid recovery prior to semis. Kohli may even demote himself in the batting order to test the likes of Dhoni and Karthik. Keep an eye on this department.