West Indies’ tour of Sri Lanka begins with an One-Day International (ODI) series, with the first match of the three-match series set to be played at the SSC, Colombo – the first ODI at this venue since April 2017. Sri Lanka have been a formidable force at home, especially when it comes against West Indies, having not lost an ODI at home against them since 2005. Sri Lanka also have the advantage in the last 10 ODIs against them, having won eight and lost only two.
However, this is a new West Indies unit under a new skipper, who have under his vision seen the side show the hunger to compete and win. Since Kieron Pollard was appointed their limited-overs captain in September 2019, he has led the team to seven wins out of nine matches out of which the first four came consecutively.
It is no secret the reason the West Indies have been able to compete and compete well over the last year or so is the form of Shai Hope at the top. He averages the most among openers who have scored at least 500 runs since January 2019 and despite having many opening partners, like John Campbell, Sunil Ambris and Brandon King among others, his performances have not dipped.
His strike-rate of 75.15 as an opener since 2019 is the lowest among openers (MIN: 500 runs), but that is mainly due to the fact that Windies have often lost a few quick wickets and it is Hope who has steadied the ship and batted deep on most occasions.
The West Indies also have not got much support from their middle-order (4 to 7), who keep getting dismissed at regular intervals. Among the top 10 ODI teams, they have the worst balls per dismissal (33.3).
It is important to note that Sri Lanka too are not far behind (35.3).
The Windies’ attacking batting duo of Evin Lewis and Shimron Hetmyer have not been included in the team as they failed the fitness test, which will perhaps give Darren Bravo and Sunil Ambris a chance to stake a claim. However, Ambris might have to fight it out with King for a place to open alongside Hope.
The Windies have an exciting set of fast bowlers in Alzarri Joseph, Sheldon Cottrell and Jason Holder to name a few, along with a few fine spin options like Hayden Walsh, Roston Chase and Fabian Allen. As a bowling unit, they have not been doing all that badly in ODIs since 2019. They have been one of the best bowling units, but have not lived up to their potential with the bat, which is something they would like to address in this series. Their performance with the bat in the warm-up game will give them a lot of confidence heading into the ODIs.
West Indies likely XI: Shai Hope (wk), Brandon King, Darren Bravo, Nicholas Pooran, Roston Chase, Kieron Pollard (c), Jason Holder, Fabian Allen, Alzarri Joseph, Sheldon Cottrell, Hayden Walsh
As far as Sri Lanka are concerned, they are still in the middle of a rebuilding phase, which they have been since the retirement of two of their heavyweight batsmen Kumar Sangakkara and Mahela Jayawardene in 2015, but more so since Lasith Malinga bid goodbye to the 50-over format recently. Over the years, they have looked for batsmen who can bat around veteran Angelo Mathews, but that has not happened consistently, which is why there is no surprise that the Lankans are languishing at No. 8 in the ICC ODI rankings – one place above West Indies.
The current Dimuth Karunaratne-led side recently whitewashed Bangladesh at home, but the Windies will be a much tougher proposition. They have recalled all-rounder Thisara Perera, who along with being a handy bowler can also bludgeon the bowling, just like he did on a couple of occasions against New Zealand in early January 2019. His form has taken a major dip since then and as a result has not played since July 2019. In fact, he has picked up just three wickets from his last 10 matches, which includes going wicketless for five continuous matches – a streak he would hope to end soon.
On paper, Sri Lanka have all their bases covered, be it with batsmen, bowlers or even all-rounders. However, picking the best XI and executing their plan is a different matter altogether. With the talent at their disposal, they should be able to brush West Indies aside although it will not be a cakewalk.
Sri Lanka likely XI: Avishka Fernando, DimuthKarunaratne (c), KusalPerera (wk), KusalMendis, Angelo Mathews, Dhananjaya de Silva, ThisaraPerera, Wanindu Hasaranga, IsuruUdana, Nuwan Pradeep, Lahiru Kumara
What's the weather like? The weather is expected to be cloudy, but there should be no rain interruptions during the match.