With just nine months left for the 50-over World Cup, the real countdown begins for India with the three-ODI series against Sri Lanka at the Barsapara Cricket Stadium here on Tuesday.
India will host three countries — New Zealand and Australia being the others — for a three-match series against each at nine venues in the pre-Indian Premier League phase. While workloads 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 by the recent series victory, backed by some fine performances, over the islanders in the shortest version. Also, India has a better head-to-head record, including the win in the 2021 series in Colombo.
The return 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 is likely to pip fastest double centurion, wicketkeeper-batter Ishan Kishan because of his consistency. And, given K.L. Rahul’s ability to don 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 Board of Control for Cricket in India 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 Hardik offer choices in the pace department.
The 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 Shanaka, leading run-scorers Pathum Nissanka and Charith Asalanka are 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.
The 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 (Capt.), Shubman Gill, Virat Kohli, Suryakumar Yadav, Shreyas Iyer, K.L. Rahul (wk), Ishan Kishan (wk), Hardik Pandya (Vice-Capt.), Washington Sundar, Yuzvendra Chahal, Kuldeep Yadav, Axar Patel, Mohd. Shami, Mohd. Siraj, Umran Malik and Arshdeep Singh.
Sri Lanka: Dasun Shanaka (Capt.), Pathum Nissanka, Avishka Fernando, Sadeera Samarawickrama, Kusal Mendis (Vice-Capt.), 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 and Lahiru Kumara.
Match begins at 1.30 p.m.