The big news is India have finally moved on from Shikhar Dhawan. But it also presents them a problem, both Shubman Gill and Ishan Kishan are in sublime form. With Rohit Sharma returning, there is just one spot, so who gets in?
In 2022, Player ‘A’ averaged 59.57 with a strike-rate of 109.73. Player ‘B’ averaged 70.88 but with a comparatively lesser strike-rate of 102.57. While one has a double century, the other has been consistently dependable. Rohit in the lead-up to the first ODI cleared the air, stating that it would be Gill who would walk out to open alongside him.
But apart from that, the usual guns are back, Virat Kohli will slot straight back at No.3, with Iyer to follow at No.4, as India are most likely to feature the on-song Hardik Pandya at the No.6 position, with KL Rahul at No.5 as the first-choice wicket-keeping option. Jasprit Bumrah, who was supposed to be fit for the series is out of it, as precautionary measure.
Sri Lanka, on the other hand, have a pretty similar make-up when it comes to the 50-over format. Jeffrey Vandersay might slot his way back into the setup to form the spin troika if the pitch offers some grip and turn. ODIs is Pathum Nissanka’s preferred format, which will make the series fun to watch.
Things to watch out for
India’s batting approach, now that Dhawan is out of the setup. In 2022, Dhawan’s presence was a major thorn in India’s attacking ambitions. The left-hander had a strike-rate of 74.21 in the year, and failed to convert any of his six half-centuries into a substantial three-figure score. But now that the Dhawan ship has sailed, the spotlight would be on Rohit and his opening partner – Gill - on Tuesday (January 10), to see if the approach really has changed?
Nissanka has just played 20 ODIs in his career but his last 11 really showed that the slower of the white-ball formats is where his best suit lies. The right-hander last year scored 491 runs, including scoring a century against Australia and a crucial 85 against Afghanistan later in the year. While he had a very quiet T20I series to his standards, the slowness of the ODI format would definitely allow him to make the fullest use of his talent.
Dasun Shanaka’s ODI form hasn’t been the best, averaging under 25 with the bat, and very often has been a bits and pieces kind of star in the 50-over format. In the aftermath of the three-match T20I series, the all-rounder said that he will roll his arm more in this series, which remains to be seen. So, for all those reasons, Sri Lanka would want their skipper to fire all cylinders in a format that isn’t his best.
India have won a staggering 10 out of the 13 ODIs that these two sides have played, which only goes on to show the level of dominance that the Men in Blue have asserted. While India would want the pattern to follow, Sri Lanka would want to once again be a thorn for the hosts.
Pitch & Conditions
If the pitch is similar to the one that was dished out in the fixture against South Africa, then expect a high-scoring thriller. The last ODI at the venue was in 2018, between West Indies and India, where India chased down 323 in 43 overs, thanks to a stunning partnership between Rohit Sharma (152) and Virat Kohli (140) taking them home without relative worries.
- If India do play Kuldeep Yadav, his battle vs Charith Asalanka would be one to look forward to. Till now, the left-arm unorthodox bowler has never dismissed the Sri Lankan batter, with the left-hander scoring 40 runs out of the 47 deliveries. Kuldeep has been in mighty form, and is expected to play a huge role in this Indian setup, but will he get the better of Asalanka?
- Suryakumar Yadav’s inclusion might give India the X-factor, not just because he has been in sublime form against Sri Lanka but the fact that he holds a wood over the likes of Shanaka and Hasaranga in the format. Against Hasaranga, the right-hander has scored 31 runs in just 16 deliveries. And, against Shanaka, he has scored 21 runs without being dismissed. Will they head in that direction?
With the return of Rohit, Kohli and Rahul, India are pretty much going to play their best XI for this series. And, Jasprit Bumrah will miss the series. Indian skipper Rohit confirmed that Gill will partner him at the top of the order.
India XI: Shubman Gill, Rohit Sharma, Virat Kohli, Shreyas Iyer, KL Rahul (wk), Hardik Pandya, Washington Sundar, Axar Patel, Mohammed Shami, Umran Malik, Kuldeep Yadav.
Sri Lanka will have a starkly different setup from their last series against Afghanistan. The return of Chamika Karunaratne is a big boost, and it will be interesting to see if they do go in with the three-spinner approach that they followed at home.
Sri Lanka XI: Pathum Nissanka, Kusal Mendis (wk), Dinesh Chandimal, Charith Asalanka, Dhananjaya de Silva, Dasun Shanaka (c), Wanindu Hasaranga, Maheesh Theekshana, Kasun Rajitha, Chamika Karunaratne