Sri Lanka host India for the first ODI in a five match series at Dambulla. The hosts are coming off a loss in their last Test series 3-0, in what was largely thought to be symbolic of the downfall of Sri Lankan cricket after decades of producing some of the game’s best players.
The home side need to win at least two games to qualify automatically for the 2019 World Cup by virtue of their ICC ranking. Given the decimation they suffered in the Tests, this is going to be a hard ask from them, a humiliating position to find themselves in.
India come into this series having rested four of their top bowlers, suffering from an abundance of options for all 11 spots on the team sheet. India will look to get their middle order in place, trying out all possible combinations to see which fits them best.
Upul Tharanga (captain), Angelo Mathews, Niroshan Dickwella (wk), Danushka Gunathilaka, Kusal Mendis, Chamara Kapugedera, Milinda Siriwardana, Malinda Pushpakumara, Akila Dananjaya, Lakshan Sandakan, Thisara Perera, Wanidu Hasaranga, Lasith Malinga, Dushmantha Chameera, Vishwa Fernando.
Virat Kohli (captain), Shikhar Dhawan, Rohit Sharma, KL Rahul, Manish Pandey, Ajinkya Rahane, Kedar Jadhav, MS Dhoni (wk), Hardik Pandya, Axar Patel, Kuldeep Yadav, Yuzvendra Chahal, Jasprit Bumrah, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Shardul Thakur.
Where the Teams Stand
The home side find themselves in a very unenviable position, one not entirely of their making depending on how complicit one thinks Jayasuriya is with his questionable squad selections. Sri Lanka have suffered only their second whitewash ever at home, losing 3-0, where two of those losses were by margins bigger than an entire innings. They now face the task of defeating India twice in a five match series where another whitewash is on the cards; and this without India fielding their best eleven. All this with a new captain, Upul Tharanga, who will lead the side for the first time despite being an experienced campaigner.
Thisara Perera will make a comeback to the team, and his inclusion as an all-rounder should bolster the resources Tharanga has to play with. On paper, Sri Lanka are not a bad team. Pushpakumara’s success in the Tests will be an encouraging sign, one they desperately need given how precious Indian wickets have become in this series. Lasith Malinga will also be available but his recent decline in terms of ferocity is a liability for the captain who needs to make the hard decision of phasing out a legend and senior member of the team.
With Tharanga and Dickwella at the top, followed by Mendis, Gunathilaka, Mathews, and Perera, the Sri Lankan batting lineup has tons of potential. Sri Lanka’s downfall so far in the series has consistently been it’s bowling and is the area they will want to focus on. However, Sri Lanka’s fielding has also been fairly ordinary in recent times, something Zimbabwe exploited well in their series win. They cannot afford to leak runs through buttery fingers, and will want to avoid any related mishaps.
If Sri Lanka are feeling confident, and want to start things off on a positive note, batting first seems to be their best option. Nothing says dominance like 350 runs on the scoreboard which is what they will need to be competitive against an astute Indian batting lineup and a Kohli who averages several hundreds in chases. Regardless.., a good score on the board will do the Lankans a world of good, giving their bowlers something to fight with.
India don’t have too much to worry about. For them, this series was always supposed to be a training ground for budding talent and players with potential who are yet to make their impact on international cricket. Yuvraj Singh’s exclusion came as a surprise having been floating in and out of the team in recent years. The management’s decision to give younger players a chance is a welcome one, and it would be nice to see India exploit the full depth of their resources for once given that they seem to be aiming for that after leaving out their top four bowlers.
India’s opening combination with Dhawan and Rohit is a stable one for now, given the former’s performances in the Tests. Kohli at 3, the management having played KL Rahul at 4, and Dhoni coming in at 6 followed by Hardik Pandya or Axar Patel means that the number 5 spot is up for grabs in a three-way tug of war between Jadhav, Manish Pandey, and Rahane. The absence of a regular fifth bowler means that playing Jadhav gives Kohli the option of two part timers to complete the quota of the fifth bowler. Given that Pandey has been in good touch recently, and Rahane is ever reliable as a solid batsman at 5, India’s team combination will be an interesting one.
India must focus on getting as many new faces out on the pitch as possible. They have nothing left to prove, having established their superiority in the Tests with consummate ease. Hence, they can now afford to get their younger talents a game out and expand the pool of players in contention for the first eleven. Regardless of which variation Shastri and Kohli employ, India’s players pack enough talent to combat whatever the Lankans can throw at them.
India should comfortably win this one, even without fielding the best of the best.
Thoughts on the match? Comment below!
Want to share your opinion? Why not Write For Us?