Rangiri Dambulla International Stadium
Sunday, August 20; 14:30 IST and local
The main picture
As a Sri Lankan cricket fan, you should believe that your national team will be able to compete a lot better with India in the upcoming ODI series than they managed to in the three-Test series. And as an Indian cricket fan, you will, as a consequence of the gulf being bridged between these two teams (one reason being the kind of squad which has been named), witness how good the Men in Blue actually are and if you have longed for a contest, you are likely to get one as well.
One of the reasons Sri Lanka are likely to be a force is time is a factor in ODIs. Whether you lose wickets early or get off to a good start, ODI cricket gives batsmen the license to play freely and forces them to continue being on the lookout for runs. And the Sri Lankan top order comprising a handful of instinctive batsmen—Upul Tharanga, Niroshan Dickwella, Kusal Mendis, and Danushka Gunathilaka—will relish playing to their strengths, finally.
On the bowling front, Sri Lanka are quite predictable and do not carry much ammunition despite being spearheaded by Lasith Malinga. Against a largely similar set of bowlers (Dushmantha Chameera, Lakshan Sandakan, Akila Dananjaya, etc.), Zimbabwe scored over 300 twice in their 2-3 ODI series win against the Islanders a little more than a month ago and they also became the first team to successfully chase a 300-plus target (317, to be precise) in an ODI in Sri Lanka. So, chances are that the Indian batting line-up also will enjoy facing this Lankan bowling.
From India’s perspective, the selection for this ODI series has thrown up a few suggestions. Firstly, that the selectors and the team management have started looking forward to the ICC Cricket World Cup 2019 and want to assemble a team capable of winning the cup in England.
And secondly, a couple of the players who have come in—Lokesh Rahul and Manish Pandey—were part of the long-term plans anyway and if not for injuries, Rahul and Pandey might well have featured in the squads for Champions Trophy 2017 and the five-ODI series against the West Indies. This inference tells us that we shouldn’t really be surprised by the selection.
The new faces and players making a comeback into the Indian squad might not hit the ground running, which is why the gulf between these two sides should be a lot smaller compared to the Test series and is one of the prime reasons we will likely witness a contest. However, India, unlike their hosts, are a more complete side and will start this one-day series as firm favourites.
Most recent results
Sri Lanka vs India head to head in ODI matches
These two Asian giants have played against each other in a whopping 156 One-Day Internationals, with the first meeting coming in 1979.
Team India lead the head-to-head by 83-55, with one ODI ending in a tie. The other 17 have either been cancelled, abandoned or ended in a no-result. The Lankan Lions won the last time they played India, beating the Men in Blue by a whopping seven wickets.
The Rangiri Dambulla International Stadium has hosted 11 Sri Lanka vs India ODIs, of which seven have been won by the home side and India have won four matches.
Upul Tharanga is the captain of the Sri Lankan one-day side.
From the squad which had been named for the five-ODI series against Zimbabwe, Nuwan Pradeep (hamstring injury), Asela Gunaratne (fractured left thumb), Nuwan Kulasekara, Asitha Fernando, and Lahiru Kumara are the players who have been left out. Four of them have been replaced with Milinda Siriwardana, Malinda Pushpakumara, Thisara Perera, and Vishwa Fernando.
In case of no injuries between now and Sunday, the likely SL playing XI for the first ODI will be as follows:
1 Upul Tharanga (C), 2 Danushka Gunathilaka, 3 Niroshan Dickwella (WK), 4 Kusal Mendis, 5 Angelo Mathews, 6 Chamara Kapugedera, 7 Thisara Perera, 8 Lakshan Sandakan, 9 Lasith Malinga, 10 Dushmantha Chameera/Vishwa Fernando, and 11 Wanindu Hasaranga/Akila Dananjaya
Seven changes have been made to the Indian squad from the one named for the limited-overs series in the West Indies last month: Yuvraj Singh, Dinesh Karthik, Rishabh Pant, Mohammed Shami, Umesh Yadav, Ravindra Jadeja, and Ravichandran Ashwin are the players who have either been dropped or afforded a rest because of the work load. And their places have gone to Lokesh Rahul, Manish Pandey, Yuzvendra Chahal, Axar Patel, Shardul Thakur, Rohit Sharma, and Jasprit Bumrah.
The two major areas of concern for the team management are the middle order and the bowling department. I expect Lokesh Rahul to bat at No. 4 and play in the place of Yuvraj, basically. Pandey has to wait for his opportunity.
In the bowling department, Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Jasprit Bumrah are certainties, while Virat Kohli will have to pick two spinners from the three named in the squad. In my opinion, he will likely opt for the two wrist spinners, Chahal and Kuldeep Yadav, though Axar’s proven batting ability might get him the nod as well, possibly ahead of Chahal.
India’s likely playing XI for the first ODI vs Sri Lanka: 1 Virat Kohli (C), 2 Shikhar Dhawan, 3 Rohit Sharma, 4 Lokesh Rahul, 5 MS Dhoni (WK), 6 Kedar Jadhav, 7 Hardik Pandya, 8 Bhuvneshwar Kumar, 9 Axar Patel/Yuzvendra Chahal, 10 Kuldeep Yadav, and 11 Jasprit Bumrah
In 31 day-night matches at the Rangiri Dambulla International Stadium, teams fielding first have won 14 matches and lost 15, with two ending in no-results.
However, the landscape of ODI cricket has changed drastically and continues to change. And at present, teams feel more comfortable chasing totals than setting them. Therefore, I am sure that both India and Sri Lanka will want to bowl first. On paper, no prizes for guessing as to who is the better team. But unlike in the Test matches, if you commit mistakes with the bat or with the ball, the chances of recovering are minimal because of the ‘lack of time’. So, the team who commit the lesser mistakes and are sharper will come out on top.