ABOUT THE MATCHIndia and Sri Lanka have played against each other quite commonly in the past but it would be hard to remember another series in Sri Lanka where the odds were stacked so heavily in India’s favor. Can Sri Lanka lift itself up after the whipping India gave them in the Test series or is it going to be all one-way traffic once again?
MATCH PREVIEWSRI LANKAThe last ODI series that Sri Lanka played was against Zimbabwe, a team that Sri Lanka was expected to beat comprehensively. Sri Lanka lost 3-2. The one before that was against Bangladesh, another series that Sri Lanka would have expected to win. Sri Lanka could only draw that as well.
In this background, it is difficult to take Sri Lanka’s chances against India seriously.
Being underestimated and springing a surprise is also where Sri Lanka’s best chance to win some matches in this series lie. It should not be forgotten that the last time these two teams met in an ODI, Sri Lanka chased down a huge total and beat India at the Champions Trophy.
That victory was made possible by fantastic innings from Dickwella and Mendis with Angelo Mathews also making some vital runs. The Sri Lankan batting for this series will also feature a strong top-5 with Gunathilaka and Upul Tharanga joining the above-mentioned three players.
We strongly believe that this series will be a batting shoot out between the teams and that Sri Lanka will have to score an extra 20-30 runs to compensate for their weak bowling attack.
Lasith Malinga is a waning force and has traditionally struggled against India. Wanindu Hasaranga is a leg spinning all-rounder but his bowling is strictly part time. That leaves Akila Dananjaya and possibly Dushmanth Chameers as the other front line bowlers, not a threatening group by any stretch of the imagination.
Another aspect of Sri Lanka’s game that has deteriorated quite rapidly is their fielding. There was a time when Sri Lanka could claim the mantle of the best Asian fielding side with ease but they have been consistently dropping catches and misfielding.
A lot of things will need to go right for Sri Lanka to be competitive but it will have start with some runs. We hope to see an aggressive Dickweels take the attack to the Indians followed by an in-form Kusal Mendis. If these two don’t quite step up then we are afraid this series could become one-sided very quickly.
INDIAThere is no doubt India’s intentions in this series or even their forthcoming plans for the ODI side in general. They want to start preparing for the 2019 World Cup by blooding in new players in the middle order and making fitness a priority.
Yuvraj Singh is no longer a part of the side and has been replaced by KL Rahul, someone who had an excellent IPL last year. Rohit Sharma is also back in the team and will replace Ajinkya Rahane who scored a lot of runs in the West Indies.
Perhaps the biggest fight for a place in the team will be between Kedar Jadhav and Manish Pandey. As the incumbent, Jadhav will probably get the nod but Pandey has been scoring tons of runs in the A matches and is an electric fielder, something that Virat Kohli values very much.
Speaking of Virat Kohli, he is the undisputed king of ODI cricket and is coming off a series against West Indies where he scored runs by the bucket load. After a middling Test series by his standard, this could be just the stage he needs to show what he is really capable of.
We also expect to see Yuzvendra Chahal in the side. He is an attacking leg-spinner that plays in the same IPL side as Virat Kohli and that relationship may just get him the nod ahead of Axar Patel.
With Kuldeep Yadav also sure to be in the playing 11, India will have the services of two attacking, wicket-taking options in the middle overs, something that seemed to be lacking in the Champions Trophy.
India has Hardik Pandya batting at 7 as well as doing the role of the fifth bowler in the side to lend balance and two very reliable short format bowlers in Bhuvaneshwar Kumar and Jasprit Bumrah.
This is a team that is rebuilding from the defeat in the finals of the Champions Trophy but is by no means a weak or inexperienced side. In fact, we are struggling to find any particular area where Sri Lanka may hold any significant advantage over India in any aspect of the game.
PITCH AND CONDITIONSThe pitch at Dambulla is generally considered flat but a little slow in nature. There will be nothing in it for the fast bowlers but the spinners may find some slow turn. It will be interesting to see what kind of kind of pace they bowl to get the most of this pitch. A score of 300 should be considered slightly above par and the team chasing may actually find it easier to pace their inning.
OUR PREDICTIONWe think that Sri Lanka will offer much more of a challenge in this series than they did in the tests and should win a couple of games at least. For the time being though, a bet on India is the only smart way to go.
India to win.