India is all set to kick off the limited-overs leg of the tour of Sri Lanka from Sunday. The Men in Blue will face the hosts, led by Upul Tharanga, in the opening match of the five-match ODI series at the Ranagiri Dambulla Stadium, Dambulla.
The contest hasn’t created the buzz which normally is around when India preps up to face Sri Lanka on their turf. The reason largely is due to the inexperienced and relatively weaker Lankan side which will be in action tomorrow against a settled Indian line-up.
Sri Lanka’s recent form at home isn’t encouraging. They lost 3-2 to the 11th-ranked Zimbabwe last month and, in fact, lost seven of their last ten completed ODIs at home. They have promising names on their sheets, but they will not bother the Indians until and unless they do something extraordinary.
The Bigger (And Also A Worrisome) Picture
Sri Lanka’s recent performances have not been the accurate reflection of the quality they possess. It’s been sheer under performance.
The upcoming five-match contest carries a much greater importance. It is not just “another” bilateral ODI series for them as the outcome of the games could become a deciding factor whether the 1996 World Champions would be able to qualify for the 2019 edition directly or not?
Sri Lanka, currently ranked eighth in ODIs with 88 points, will be able to secure direct qualification only if they win at least two matches in the series. Two wins will take their points tally to 90 before the September 30 cut-off, widening the gap with West Indies, who are currently placed ninth, with 78 points. The top seven sides along with hosts England gain direction qualification for the tournament.
Sri Lanka can be safe because West Indies would be able to reach 88 points even if they win their six remaining ODIs – five against England and one against Ireland.
India – The Favourites
Virat Kohli will have to solve a couple of selection puzzle before heading into the game. The first question in front of him is the choice of the man for the no. 4 position while the other being the number of spinners to play.
As an answer to the first question, he has to pick between KL Rahul and Manish Pandey. It will be difficult for him and very tough for others to predict the conclusion on this matter.
The answer to the second question lays on the nature of the pitch of course. But, the problem is that both the options – Kuldeep Yadav and Axar Patel are too good to be left citing conditions as an excuse, as both are known for their variety and adaptive nature.
This debate also put light on Shardul Thakur who might make his ODI debut should India opt for just one frontline seamer.
India will get off to a daunting start. Sri Lanka’s current form is nowhere near to what it used to be in the past, whereas, the Indian is mauling the opposition like a hungry beast in recent times. Therefore, it would be a safe bet to assume India is going up 1-0 at Dambulla.
Rohit Sharma, Shikhar Dhawan, Virat Kohli, KL Rahul, MS Dhoni, Hardik Pandya, Kedar Jadhav, Jasprit Bumrah, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Shardul Thakur, Axar Patel
Upul Tharanga, Danushka Gunathilaka, Niroshan Dickwella, Kusal Mendis, Milinda Siriwardana, Chamara Kapugedara, Angelo Mathews, Thisara Perera, Dushmantha Chameera, Wanindu Hasaranga/Akila Dhananjaya, Lasith Malinga,