Big Picture: India Overwhelming Favorites
A few years ago Sri Lanka was really pathetic in the ODI format but look they are a bit better now. Or at least this is what we hope. In the last year they have won six of their 10 completed ODIs. Full disclosure, six of those games were against Zimbabwe and Afghanistan. But then there was also a glorious home series victory over Australia. Overall, they continue as a team on an upward trajectory.
The problem is that India is, of course, monsters at home. Since the start of 2020, they have won nine of their 12 completed ODIs in the country (and how strange it is that India have only played 12 ODIs at home in three years when there was a time when they would have won against Sri Lanka have played 12.)
And let’s not talk about how the teams are on paper. Because on paper India tends to crush Sri Lanka every time now. Fortunately, the on-field rivalry hasn’t been so one-sided, at least in the T20Is.
On the fast-bowling front, Arshdeep Singh and Umran Malik may be battling for the same spot. If any of them were Sri Lanka players, no doubt they would be playing.
India beat Sri Lanka on paper every time. That’s how it often went. But Sri Lanka has also had their way of defying their stats and record.
(completed matches, most recent first)
Sri Lanka WLLWW
In the spotlight: Is there another Kohli masterclass coming up?
Virat Kohli‘s record against Sri Lanka is terrifying. In 46 innings against this opposition, he has 2220 runs – second to his tally against the West Indies, and only marginally. He has eight hundred and eleven fifty against them, and despite many of these matches coming on slow Sri Lankan circuits, he has a 91 strike rate. Lanka fear more than Kohli. He is also fresh off an ODI century, having hit 113 against Bangladesh in December.
There can now be little doubt that Sri Lanka’s white-ball fortunes have turned a corner since then Dasun Shanaka became captain. Usually the turnaround has come in the T20 format (hello, Asia Cup). But there also seems to be some semblance of a revival in ODIs. The problem for Shanaka is that he has been a poor ODI player so far, averaging less than 25 with the bat, even with a healthy batting percentage of 94, often moving towards the dead end of an innings. He is currently in spectacular form and will be looking to take that to the ODIs.
Location and conditions
In the one played ODI at Guwahati, in 2018, West Indies made 322 for 8, then India easily chased it down, in the 43rd over. No rain is expected to interrupt this game.
Team news: Iyer or SKY in the XI?
India XI (possibly): 1 Rohit Sharma (capt.), 2 Shubman Gill, 3 Virat Kohli, 4 KL Rahul (wk) 5 Shreyas Iyer, 6 Hardik Pandya, 7 Axar Patel, 8 Yuzvendra Chahal/Kuldeep Yadav, 9 Mohammed Siraj, 10 Mohammed Shami, 11 Arshdeep Singh/Umran Malik
Sri Lanka have some decisions to make in terms of bowling, but their top order and spin attack should be fairly settled.
Sri Lanka (possibly): 1 Kusal Mendis (wk), 2 Pathum Nissanka, 3 Avishka Fernando, 4 Dhananjaya de Silva, 5 Charith Asalanka, 6 Dasun Shanaka, 7 Wanindu Hasaranga, 8 Chamika Karunaratne, 9 Maheesh Theekshana, 10 Kasun Rajitha, 11 Dilshan Madushanka/Lahiru Kumara
“It’s good that we will play nine ODIs at home [before the World Cup]. It’s a good opportunity for us to figure out what we want to do at the World Cup. In these nine games we can try things out – what could be our best combination, and how we want to play, what we actually already have planned.”
– Indian captain Rohit Sharma
Andrew Fidel Fernando is ESPNcricinfo’s Sri Lanka correspondent. @afidelf