Sri Lanka vs India 1st ODI Preview: India's white-ball specialists meet depleted Lankans in Colombo
Finally, after much drama and uncertainty, the Sri Lanka-India series is upon us.
All in a frenzy
With the Sri Lankan squad having been announced around 48 hours before the beginning of the series, clearly settled is not a word you would like to use in this context.
After having reached Sri Lanka towards the end of June, the Shikhar Dhawan-led Team India has had enough time to prepare. It may seem counterintuitive but their opponents - the home side - have been out of isolation just a few days ago after a couple of their squad members on the last trip to England tested positive for COVID-19.
India's second-string side? Not really
To state the obvious, India are missing several of their first choice players, with them currently in England preparing for the upcoming marquee 5-match Test series. That said, the likes of Shikhar Dhawan, Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Hardik Pandya would make most first XIs around the world.
Despite India having landed on the Sri Lankan shores with a second string squad, they have perhaps twice as much experience as their opponents.
Sri Lanka are missing the services of former captain - you see how quickly current turns into former in these parts of the world - Kusal Perera after he picked up a shoulder injury. In a controversial change, Dasun Shanaka has now taken over Sri Lanka's white-ball captaincy.
Niroshan Dickwella, Kusal Mendis and Danushka Gunathilaka have already been suspended for breaching the bio-bubble in England. With Dickwella, Mendis and Perera all unavailable, Sri Lanka are likely to go with Minod Bhanuka for wicket-keeping duties.
The other players to feature in the newly announced Sri Lankan squad are Bhanuka Rajapaksa, who was fined by SLC earlier this month for a breach of contract, uncapped batter Lahiru Udara and seam-bowling all-rounder Ishan Jayaratne. Pacers Lahiru Kumara and Kasun Rajitha also find a place in the squad.
Sri Lanka are going through a terrible run of form, and it has been going on for too long to call it a patch. The team has lost 7 of their last 8 completed ODIs this year while also losing 12 of their last 13 T20 Internationals. In fact, since July 2016, the team has lost 60 and won only 26 ODIs.
All eyes on Shaw, Samson
Shikhar Dhawan will open the batting for the visitors alongside Prithvi Shaw. Devdutt Padikkal is another option but the team management will want to cash in on Shaw's form. Padikkal has also been in silken touch but Shaw is obviously ahead in the pecking order.
Suryakumar Yadav, who recently impressed in his 2nd T20I against England, will bat at number 3 with Sanju Samson taking up the wicket-keeping duties and batting at number 4.
In the absence of any anchor in India's ODI unit, Manish Pandey, despite unimpressive international figures, is likely to get a game at number 5. Hardik Pandya and Krunal Pandya provide India with balance and firepower at number 6 and 7. India can also consider Krishnappa Gowtham at number 7 but then again, Krunal has had the spot in possession.
Bhuvneshwar Kumar, the Indian vice captain on the tour will be the team's leading pacer. He will partner either Deepak Chahar or Navdeep Saini to form the new ball bowling attack. Given that Chahar will likely be called upon in the T20Is, the management might have a look at Navdeep Saini who has suffered indifferent form in recent times. Kul-Cha are likely to play together.
Onus on Fernandos and de Silva to put runs on the board
Sri Lanka are expected to open with Pathum Nissanka and Avishka Fernando, with Oshada Fernando and Dhananjaya de Silva - who stood out on the tour of England - taking the number 3 and 4 spots. Newly-appointed captain Dasun Shanaka Chanakya is expected to bat at number 5 with Wanindu Hasaranga at 6.
In the absence of Niroshan Dickwella, Kusal Perera and Kusal Mendis, Minod Bhanuka is likely to keep wickets.
Chamika Karunaratne, Lahiru Kumara and Dushmantha Chameera will be Sri Lanka's pace bowling options. Lakshan Sandakan will consolidate the spin department alongside Dhananjaya de Silva and Wanindu Hasaranga.
Here's a look at the probable playing XIs:
Sri Lanka - Pathum Nissanka, Avishka Fernando, Oshada Fernando, Dhananjaya de Silva, Dasun Shanaka (c), Wanindu Hasaranga, Minod Bhanuka (wk), Chamika Karunaratne, Lahiru Kumara, Lakshan Sandakan, Dushmantha Chameera
India - Shikhar Dhawan (c), Prithvi Shaw, Suryakumar Yadav, Sanju Samson (wk), Manish Pandey, Hardik Pandya, Krunal Pandya, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Deepak Chahar/Navdeep Saini, Kuldeep Yadav, Yuzvendra Chahal
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