India will once again be expected to be at its ruthless best when it takes on Sri Lanka, which has hit nadir in both form and confidence, in the second one day international, here tomorrow.
After a lop-sided 3-0 Test series victory, the script did not change much in the opening ODI, where India steamrolled the opposition by nine wickets. Such has been Sri Lanka's performance that supporters stopped the team bus demanding answers for a shoddy show.
Chief coach Nic Pothas pointed out in no uncertain terms that all is not well within the team, indirectly pointing fingers at the interference from team manager Asanka Gurusinha.
Like it has happened during the past few months, Shikhar Dhawan pummelled the Lankan bowlers into submission with an unbeaten 132. For skipper Virat Kohli, it was business as usual with an unbeaten 82.
As such, it is tough to foresee any changes to the Indian playing XI. Only one out of five games has been played yet, and even in West Indies, Kohli resisted the urge to chop and change too much.
It is a similar scenario here as well. At Dambulla, India didn't prefer to go in with either two leg-spinners or two left-arm spinners, thus forming the Chahal-Patel's orthodox
leg break-left arm spin combination.
Additionally, the ODI wickets in Sri Lanka do not afford the luxury of playing three spinners. Thus, unless the Pallekele wicket is exceptionally dry, Kuldeep Yadav can
expect to be left out once again, along with Manish Pandey, Ajinkya Rahane and Shardul Thakur.
It will be interesting if Kohli shuffles his batting order a bit to give K.L. Rahul and Kedar Jadhav, some batting time considering the inept Sri Lankan bowling which has failed
to get the 'Men In Blue' out.
READ: Kohli focussed on increasing momentum in the shorter format
There has been questions raised about Sri Lanka's team selection policies. Test skipper, and one of Sri Lanka's most attacking batsmen Dinesh Chandimal was left out of the playing XI as ODI captain Upul Tharanga – generally an opener – came out to bat at No 4, where Chandimal bats.
This has set tongues wagging that all is not well in the Sri Lankan dressing room and that the coach and captain are being over-ridden by others. Pothas openly questioned the decision of leaving out Chandimal in the post-match conference.
When asked about the influence of team manager Gurusinha and chief selector Sanath Jayasuriya, he came up with the classic "too many cooks" quote.
However, it doesn't take spotlight away from the simple fact that Sri Lanka once again failed to provide adequate challenge for the Indian team.
If the Test series was evidence of the gap between the Nos 1 and 7 ranked teams, then on evidence of the Dambulla game alone, the ICC ODI rankings of India and Sri Lanka – Nos 3 and 8 respectively – are justified too.
This series too has all the makings of another one-sided contest and is not making for a good spectacle for the home fans, who clearly let their displeasure known during the first One Day International.
Sri Lanka needs to win two ODIs in this series to make sure that West Indies does not overhaul it in the ODI ranking and gains automatic qualification for the 2019 ODI World Cup before the September 30 deadline.
The host needs more responsibility and stability in its batting ranks, and could look to bring back Chandimal, if only to quieten down the heated atmosphere surrounding the team’s dismal performances recently.
It is tough to see who will be left out though as the top-order did well enough to put the Indian attack under pressure, until atleast the 28th over when Lanka was placed
at 150/3, thanks to the exploits of Danushka Gunathilaka, Niroshan Dickwella and Kusal Mendis.
They had resisted the Indian pace attack as well as one half of its spin duo to lay the foundation of a decent- enough target, only to be let down by the lower order.
In keeping with the coach's words, some responsibility lies with the trio as well, for one of them was expected to hold one end together and go on to play a big innings.
This lack of in-game maturity, and experience as a whole, is what sets them apart from the Indian top-order at present. While Lanka will once again be struggling with these
questions of overcoming self-doubt, the Indian camp will be wondering if it will be challenged at all during this tour.
The Test series proved to be a cakewalk, and in that light, the selectors’ call to rest senior bowlers and experiment with younger blood has been justified.
Whether the host steps up or not, this is vital game time for the likes of Axar Patel and Yuzvendra Chahal, with Virat Kohli's men already stepping up their preparations for the next World Cup.
India: Virat Kohli (c), Shikhar Dhawan, Rohit Sharma, K.L. Rahul, Manish Pandey, Ajinkya Rahane, Kedar Jadhav, MS Dhoni (wk), Hardik Pandya, Axar Patel, Kuldeep Yadav, Yuzvendra Chahal, Jasprit Bumrah, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Shardul Thakur.
Sri Lanka: Upul Tharanga (c), Angelo Mathews, Niroshan Dickwella (wk), Danushka Gunathilaka, Kusal Mendis, Chamara Kapugedera, Milinda Siriwardana, Malinda Pushpakumara, Akila Dananjaya, Lakshan Sandakan, Thisara Perera,Wanindu Hasaranga, Lasith Malinga, Dushmantha Chameera, Vishwa Fernando.