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Sri Lanka can breathe easy. And not just because they are out of Delhi. Virat Kohli will not be breaking any more records on the rest of their tour. That’s where the good news ends, though. The last time Sri Lanka played ODIs in India, India’s new captain Rohit Sharma scored 264. Also the most successful IPL captain, Rohit, now gets to lead India in limited-overs cricket as Kohli rests, but the onus is on Sri Lanka to make this series less tedious than the speculation around Kohli’s wedding.
An indication of how unsure Sri Lanka are in ODI cricket is that until recently, their new captain Thisara Perera struggled to find a place in the side. Visiting India for ODIs is a daunting task at the best of times, and when you are on a 12-match losing streak and when India are on a seven-series winning streak, even miracles might not be enough. A more realistic target for Sri Lanka is to deny India a whitewash, which is what they need to become the No. 1 side in ODIs again.
Normally, winning the toss and chasing in dewy grounds would be Sri Lanka’s best chance to deny India, but the two matches in India’s north, likely to be severely affected by dew, will begin two hours earlier than usual. That said, India will not want to take Sri Lanka lightly, especially with the return of Angelo Mathews, Danushka Gunathilaka and Asela Gunaratne.
(last five completed matches, most recent first)
Sri Lanka: LLLLL
In the spotlight
An opportunity to bat in the India top order – with Shikhar Dhawan, Rohit and Kohli – doesn’t come easy. The next three ODIs are an invitation for someone to stake a strong claim. Might it be another chance for Ajinkya Rahane, who has scored runs as an opener but hasn’t done enough to dispel the notion that he struggles to push on once the ball gets softer? Might this be an opportunity for Shreyas Iyer to get a decent run in India’s limited-overs sides? Or will Dinesh Karthik present a case to become India’s long-term No. 4?
Niroshan Dickwella can often get away with intemperate batting in Tests, but in ODIs he has to play a more important, more responsible role. He is Sri Lanka’s second-highest run-getter this year, and one of only three players from Sri Lanka to have played more than 20 matches this year. How well he goes at the top of the order will often determine how well Sri Lanka go.
Rahane is the frontrunner to take Kohli’s place in the XI with the other ODI specialists slotting right back in. Kedar Jadhav is injured, which probably means a toss up between Manish Pandey and Shreyas Iyer for a middle-order spot.*
India (probable): 1 Rohit Sharma (capt.), 2 Shikhar Dhawan, 3 Ajinkya Rahane, 4 Dinesh Karthik, 5 Manish Pandey/Shreyas Iyer, 6 MS Dhoni (wk), 7 Hardik Pandya, 8 Bhuvneshwar Kumar, 9 Kuldeep Yadav/Axar Patel, 10 Jasprit Bumrah, 11 Yuzvendra Chahal
Sri Lanka’s Delhi Test saviour Dhananjaya de Silva, who scored the highest fourth-innings score by a visiting batsman in India despite illness and injury, will not be fit for the first ODI. Gunaratne, who injured his hand during the first Test on India’s tour of Sri Lanka, should regain his middle-order spot now that he is fit. Sri Lanka’s second-highest wicket-taker this year, Suranga Lakmal, is available too. They will also be boosted by the availability of Mathews to bowl a few overs.
Sri Lanka (probable): 1 Upul Tharanga, 2 Danushka Gunathilaka, 3 Sadeera Samarawickrama/Kusal Perera/Lahiru Thirimanne, 4 Niroshan Dickwella (wk), 5 Angelo Mathews, 6 Thisara Perera (capt.), 7 Asela Gunaratne 8 Chaturanga de Silva/Sachith Pathirana/Dushmantha Chameera, 9 Suranga Lakmal, 10 Nuwan Pradeep, 11 Akila Dananjaya
Pitch and conditions
The first-innings scores in the only three ODIs in Dharamsala have swung wildly between 190 and 330, making it hard to predict the typical nature of the surface. Usually, though, the only demon ODI tracks in India hold is slowness, which is not always the issue in Dharamsala. Thisara said it was a good batting pitch.
Stats and trivia
- The last major team Sri Lanka beat in an ODI was India, in the Champions Trophy earlier this year.
- Sri Lanka have been whitewashed 5-0 three times this year.
- Angelo Mathews needs 88 runs to become the 10th Sri Lankan to 5000 ODI runs. He will be the slowest Sri Lankan to the mark.
- Sri Lanka last won an ODI in India in the World Cup of 2011. They last beat India in India in 2009. Since then, their record in India has been 1-8.
“We have a couple of players who have come from injury. Balanced side at the moment. Hopefully we can do something special, I hope.”
Thisara Perera is hopeful the return of Mathews and Gunaratne will bring them results