MUMBAI: Indian captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni warned rivals Sri Lanka to expect a tough contest in Saturday’s World Cup final, saying his team had yet to play its best cricket.
“There is plenty more to come from us,” Dhoni said ahead of the all-Asian clash at the Wankhede stadium. “We gained momentum as the tournament went on and we are now peaking at the right time.”
Dhoni said India’s intensity had picked up in the knock-out rounds, which helped to defeat defending champions Australia in the quarter-finals and arch-rivals Pakistan in the semis.
The Indian captain said his team was not under any extra pressure going into the final.
“We are not thinking about tomorrow’s game as a final, for us every match is a challenge and just as important,” he said.
“These matches are called by different names like quarters, semis and final. In the end you have to play the same way and do the right things to succeed.
“Of course we realise this is a World Cup final. It can’t get bigger than this, but our preparations have to be the same.”
Dhoni said there was no mental or physical strain in playing the title match just three days after an intense semi-final against Pakistan in Mohali on Wednesday.
The Indian captain actually welcomed the back-to-back games in quick succession.
“The good thing is that we did not have a long break after the semi-final,” he said. “We travelled from Mohali yesterday, practiced today and will play the match tomorrow.
“It does not give anyone time to think too far ahead or worry about the future.”
India will be playing at the refurbished 33,000-capacity Wankhede stadium for the first time, while Sri Lanka beat New Zealand by 112 runs in a league match at the ground on March 18.
Dhoni, however, did not think Sri Lanka will be at an advantage because of that.
“We practised two-and-a-half hours in the middle today, so we are quite familiar with the wicket and know what to expect,” he said.
Sri Lanka have prevailed in recent one-dayers against India, winning six of the 10 matches played last year in Dhaka, Harare, Bulawayo and Dambulla.
But India have won five of seven matches against the Islanders on home soil over the last five years.
Dhoni said left-arm seamer Ashish Nehra had been ruled out due to a fractured finger, but added his replacement in the playing XI had not been decided.
Nehra sustained the injury during the semi-final against Pakistan where, selected surprisingly ahead of spinner Ravichandran Ashwin, he claimed 2-33 in India’s 29-run victory.
“Ashish is most certainly out of the final because he has multiple fractures on a finger in the right hand,” Dhoni said.
The skipper said a decision on whether to play an additional seamer in Shanthakumaran Sreesanth or a second spinner in Ashwin will be made before the toss.
“The Mumbai wicket usually has a bit of bounce and a third seamer gives me the option to manoevure the attack,” he said.
“But if we feel there could be turn in the wicket as the game progresses, Ashwin will come into the picture. It helps to have such good options.”
Dhoni, however, insisted that left-hand batsman Gautam Gambhir was fit to play after recovering from a minor hamstring strain he developed while fielding against Pakistan.