With just nine months left for the 50-over World Cup at home, the real countdown begins for India now with a three-match ODI series against Sri Lanka, starting at the Barsapara Cricket Stadium here on Tuesday.
India will host three countries, also including New Zealand and Australia, playing a three-match series with each of them, at nine different venues in the pre-Indian Premier League (IPL) phase.
While the workload will be closely monitored, one is certain to witness various experiments in this phase before a more settled unit fine-tunes itself in the final phase.
Even as captaincy changes hands with the switch in format, the home team will be inspired because of its recent series victory, backed by some fine performances, over the islanders in the shortest version.
India’s better head-to-head record and win in the 2021 series in Colombo will delight the host.
The comeback of two batting aces – captain Rohit Sharma (who injured his hand in the series against Bangladesh last month) and Virat Kohli – will be a huge morale booster.
At the top, Shubman Gill will pip the fastest double centurion wicketkeeper-batter Ishan Kishan because of his consistency.
With the flexibility of K.L. Rahul donning the big gloves, Suryakumar Yadav may not find a place despite his dazzling T20 form. All-rounder vice-captain Hardik Pandya will provide the crucial balance.
Premier pacer Jasprit Bumrah’s name in the squad triggered anticipation before the cricket board pulled him out on Monday as a precautionary measure. Bumrah, who last played in September, has been recovering from a back injury.
Nevertheless, the return of speedster Mohammad Shami, who had been out with a shoulder issue since November, is encouraging. Mohammmad Siraj, Umran Malik and Arshdeep Singh along with Pandya offer choices in pace bowling.
India’s spin department is diverse with the presence of all-rounders Axar Patel and Washington Sundar and wrist spinners Kuldeep Yadav and Yuzvendra Chahal.
Sri Lanka, led by all-rounder Dasun Shanaka, will look forward to starting afresh and gathering valuable experience for the upcoming World Cup.
Apart from Dasun, leading run-scorers Pathum Nissanka and Charith Asalanka will be among its key batters.
Pacemen Dilshan Madushanka, Kasun Rajitha and Lahiru Kumara and spinners Wanindu Hasaranga, Maheesh Theekshana and Jeffrey Vandersay will be keen to taste success against the Indians.
Dew factor and the possibility of a high-scoring match in ODI cricket’s return to Barsapara after 2018 will impact the teams’ combinations.
The teams (from):
India: Rohit Sharma (captain), Shubman Gill, Virat Kohli, Suryakumar Yadav, Shreyas Iyer, KL Rahul (wk), Ishan Kishan (wk), Hardik Pandya (vice-captain), Washington Sundar, Yuzvendra Chahal, Kuldeep Yadav, Axar Patel, Mohd. Shami, Mohd. Siraj, Umran Malik, Arshdeep Singh.
Sri Lanka: Dasun Shanaka (captain), Pathum Nissanka, Avishka Fernando, Sadeera Samarawickrama, Kusal Mendis (vice-captain), Charith Asalanka, Dhananjaya de Silva, Wanindu Hasaranga, Ashen Bandara, Maheesh Theekshana, Jeffrey Vandersay, Chamika Karunaratne, Dilshan Madushanka, Kasun Rajitha, Nuwanidu Fernando, Dunith Wellalage, Pramod Madushan, Lahiru Kumara.
Match starts at 1:30 pm