India take on Sri Lanka with eye on No1 ranking

Dharamsala – The last time Sri Lanka toured India for a One-Day International series, back in 2014, it was swept 0-5. Earlier this year, when the two sides met in Sri Lanka in five 50-over games, the result was no different.

After the Test series, which India won 1-0 last week, the teams are ready to lock horns for the first of three ODIs at the picturesque Himachal Pradesh Cricket Association Stadium in Dharamsala today  The last time India played an ODI in Dharamsala, Hardik Pandya took 3 for 31 in a Man-of-the-Match performance on debut as the home side beat New Zealand by six wickets. While Sri Lanka would like to take inspiration from its spirited performance in the third and the final Test in New Delhi — which it managed to draw — its task will not be easy.

In 2017, Sri Lanka have won just four out of its 26 ODIs. Thrice it has been whitewashed in a five-match series, apart from losing 2-3 to Zimbabwe in its own backyard, and are currently on a 12-match losing streak. As a result, it is languishing at No8 in the International Cricket Council’s ODI rankings.

On the other hand, India have won 19 out of the 26 ODIs this year and are at No2 in the ICC rankings chart. A win in the first ODI will see their nose ahead of South Africa, the current table-topper, but they will have to win the next two games as well to stay there.

The home side will be without Virat Kohli, the regular captain, who has been rested for the ODIs as well as the Twenty20 Internationals. This might work in favour of Ajinkya Rahane. The team management might be tempted to slot the Mumbai batsman, who looked out of sorts in the Test series, in the middle order to have him in a good nick ahead of the South Africa tour.

If it decides to do so, and with India’s recent inclination to play just five batsmen, that will leave only two spots in the batting line-up and four batsmen — Shreyas Iyer, Manish Pandey, Kedar Jadhav and Dinesh Karthik — vying for them.

In Kohli’s absence, Rohit Sharma will lead the side. Although this will be his maiden stint at the international level, he has a lot of experience captaining Mumbai Indians in the Indian Premier League. While Rohit agreed the two formats were completely different, he felt the basics still remained the same.  “It will be a different ball game altogether, but the process and the basis of captaincy, leading any team, will remain the same. Having played with these guys for quite some time now, I do understand their strengths and weaknesses,” he said on the eve of the game.

Rohit will have the services of Kuldeep Yadav and Yuzvendra Chahal, the two wrist spinners, at his disposal, while Pandya returns to the side after being rested for the Test series. Bhuvneshwar Kumar is also back in the mix after his wedding and is expected to share the new ball with Jasprit Bumrah, which means Siddarth Kaul may have to wait for his debut. Apart from this, India will resume their quest to find a solution to the long-pending No4 puzzle, having tried three different batsmen in the last three ODIs and ten in all since the World Cup 2015. The focus will also be on the contentious issue of MS Dhoni’s position in the batting order.

Sri Lanka too have a new ODI captain in Thisara Perera, the seam-bowling allrounder, who led it in the last T20I series, against Pakistan, in October. Dinesh Chandimal, the Test captain who scored a brilliant 164 in the first innings of the Delhi Test, was left out of the squad, whereas Dhananjaya de Silva, who helped Sri Lanka salvage a draw with a fifth-day hundred, has been ruled out due to a glute muscle injury.


INDIA: Rohit Sharma (capt), Shikhar Dhawan, Ajinkya Rahane, Shreyas Iyer, Manish Pandey, Kedar Jadhav, Dinesh Karthik, MS Dhoni (wk), Hardik Pandya, Axar Patel, Kuldeep Yadav, Yuzvendra Chahal, Jasprit Bumrah, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Siddarth Kaul.

SRI LANKA: Thisara Perera (capt), Upul Tharanga, Danushka Gunathilaka, Niroshan Dickwella (wk), Sadeera Samarawickrama, Lahiru Thirimanne, Angelo Mathews, Asela Gunaratne, Chathuranga de Silva, Sachith Pathirana, Akila Dananjaya, Dushmantha Chameera, Suranga Lakmal, Nuwan Pradeep, Dhananjaya de Silva, Kusal Perera.

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