Fresh from a 3-0 Test cricket series whitewash over Sri Lanka, India will aim to continue with their ruthless approach as the five-match One-Day International (ODI) series begins at the Rangiri Dambulla International Stadium here on Sunday.
Virat Kohli’s men routed the Islanders in the three Tests, posting easy wins through all-round performances. In the first Test at Galle, India registered a 304-run triumph, while in the second Test at Colombo, they won by an innings and 53 runs. The third Test saw the visitors claim a victory by an innings and 171 runs in a dominating display.
India are high on confidence following these triumphs and they need to be in the right frame of mind as they switch to the 50-over white-ball format from the five-day affairs.
Sri Lanka, with their pride and quality being questioned following the recent losses, will be desperate for redemption. Test cricket is the hardest format that exposes the gulf in quality of the teams to the limit but the limited overs matches are expected to be balanced, even though the visitors should be overwhelming favourites.
Currently eighth in the ODI rankings, Sri Lanka will be eyeing the chance to seal direct qualification for the ICC Cricket World Cup 2019. And out of these five matches, the 1996 World champions will have to win at least two matches to secure a place in the pinnacle 50-over competition by staving off the challenge from the West Indies. The cut-off date for direct qualification is September 30.
Sri Lanka have 88 points, 10 points more than the West Indies, which has an unenviable task in its aim of being among the seven top-ranked sides apart from host England to gain direct qualification.
The bottom four sides will need to play a qualifying event also featuring the top four sides from the ICC World Cricket League Championship and the top two sides from the ICC World Cricket League. The top two teams from this event will get to play in the ICC Cricket World Cup 2019.
As for third-ranked India, only a 4-1 series win will ensure it stays ahead of England. Even a 3-2 win for India will mean they will slip to 113 points and behind England on decimal points owing to Sri Lanka’s low ranking.
India have picked a young bowling side, having rested spin-twins Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja and fast bowling pair of Umesh Yadav and Mohammed Shami.
Left-arm spinner Axar Patel, left-arm wrist (chinaman) spinner Kuldeep Yadav and leg-spinner Yuzvendra Chahal are captain Virat Kohli’s options among slow bowlers. The three youngsters will look to impress in the limited opportunities.
Mumbai paceman Shardul Thakur made a comeback into the squad. Gujarat pacer Jasprit Bumrah and Uttar Pradesh seamer Bhuvneshwar Kumar are automatic choices in the playing XI.
On the batting front, Karnataka middle-order batsman Manish Pandey is expected to bat at No.5. And the right-hander will look to justify his selection in the squad ahead of veteran southpaw Yuvraj Singh, a key member of India’s 2007 World Twenty20 and 2011 World Cup-winning squads. Pandey’s statemate Lokesh Rahul might bat at No.4.
Another veteran, Mahendra Singh Dhoni will also look to make the most of the opportunities as far as banishing the calls for injecting fresh legs are concerned. The 36-year-old’s power-hitting is on the wane and it will be interesting to see his batting position.
For the home camp, captain Upul Tharanga and experienced middle-order batsmen Angelo Mathews and Dinesh Chandimal need to shoulder responsibility in the batting department.
Among bowlers, the fitness of pace spearhead Lasith Malinga will be the key. Sri Lanka have recalled all-rounders Thisara Perera and Milinda Siriwardana into the squad. Left-arm spinner Malinda Pushpakumara may make his debut, while pacemen Dushmantha Chameera and Vishwa Fernando will share the new ball.
Sri Lanka: Upul Tharanga (captain), Angelo Mathews, Niroshan Dickwella (wicketkeeper), Dhanushka Gunathilaka, Kusal Mendis, Chamara Kapugedera, Milinda Siriwardana, Malinda Pushpakumara, Akila Dananjaya, Lakshan Sandakan, Thisara Perera, Wanindu Hasaranga, Lasith Malinga, Dushmantha Chameera, Vishwa Fernando.
India: Virat Kohli (captain), Shikhar Dhawan, Rohit Sharma (vice captain), Lokesh Rahul, Manish Pandey, Ajinkya Rahane, Kedar Jadhav, Mahendra Singh Dhoni (wicket-keeper), Hardik Pandya, Axar Patel, Kuldeep Yadav, Yuzvendra Chahal, Jasprit Bumrah, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Shardul Thakur.