A few days back the West Indian cricket team left these shores midway in a series against India owing to pay dispute between the board and the players. At that time the board officials got in touch with the Sri Lankans and decided to organize a five match one day series to fill the gaps that had been created by the unexpected departure of West Indies. This ensured, to a certain extent perhaps, that the board did not lose out on money and its commitments to the broadcasters were properly fulfilled. Now, the question that needs to be asked is what the Indian players may be feeling with this hastily arranged series.
To start with, Indian cricketers play the maximum number of matches (this includes IPL and Champions League T20 as well) in a year among all the teams that play in the highest level. So perhaps, when the West Indian team left they could have been forgiven for thinking that they might get that extra bit of time to recharge their batteries. That may have been crucial before a grueling tour to Australia followed by the World Cup, the quadrennial showpiece of the cricketing world. However, that was not to be.
If this tour had not happened the Indian players may have also been able to participate in the first few rounds of the zonal and provincial one-dayers, which are being held earlier this season for the fringe players to press their claims as probables for the upcoming World Cup, where India will be defending its title. That would have helped them stay in touch while not exerting themselves too much, while the quality of the domestic competitions would have received a major shot in the arm as well.
Now coming to who may win the series in the battle of subcontinental rivals, India holds a slight advantage over Sri Lanka because of home conditions. What may go against Sri Lanka is their recent lack of form – a very important factor in limited overs cricket these days. This was shown when they were defeated by South Africa at home. India, on the other hand, had been doing well against West Indies and was ahead of the Caribbeans when the series was ended. They may have even won if the full series was played in the end as it was supposed to be.
Team analysis of Sri Lanka
Sri Lanka has a strong batting line up led by skipper Angelo Mathews. The evergreen duo of Mahela Jayawardene and Kumar Sangakkara – probably in the final phases of their illustrious careers – will be there as will be Tillekratne Dilshan. Some other names to watch out for in this department would be Upul Tharanga and Kusal Perera as well as Ashen Priyanjan, who will be expected to play a bigger role in the absence of Lahiru Thirimanne. All-rounder Chaturanga de Silva and wicket keeper Niroshan Dickwella, who will fill in for the injured Sanga, will be expected to play crucial roles as well.
Sri Lanka has a decent bowling unit as well with the likes of Thisara Perera, Dhammika Prasad, Nuwan Kulasekara and newcomer Lahiru Gamage will be manning the pace department. Among these Perera assumes importance because of the immense ability he has shown in his performances with the bat and Prasad will be an important part of the attack as well because of the pace he can generate. In the absence of Lasith Malinga – it is not yet known whether he will play in the upcoming World Cup – Kulasekara will need to lead with example. It is a little surprising to see people like Lakmal, Eranga and Pradeep have not been selected in the team.
Similarly, Sri Lanka has not picked players like Ajantha Mendis or Rangana Herath, most likely to be its spinners in the upcoming World Cup for this trip. They have also not selected Dilruwan Perera or Sachitra Senanayake, instead opting to go with fringe options such as Suraj Randiv and Seekkuge Prasanna. Given the level of comfort Indian batsmen enjoy against spin bowling it is surprising that Sri Lanka did not come with its very best attack.
Team analysis of India
India has decided to rest regular skipper MS Dhoni, keeping in mind the demanding assignment waiting upfront. Virat Kohli, skipper for the first three one day games, had rediscovered his form in the West Indies series and would be expected to play a major role with the bat and he will be assisted ably by Ajinkya Rahane and Suresh Raina. Shikhar Dhawan, Ambati Rayudu and Murali Vijay will also need to perform well if India is to do well in the series.
The team has a strong array of spinners with the likes of Ravichandran Ashwin, Ravindra Jadeja, Amit Mishra and Akshar Patel. Ashwin will be coming off a rest received in the series against the Windies and it will be interesting to see how he performs against players who are adept at playing spin. Jadeja and Mishra have always been class performers in national colours especially in this form and they need to be at their very best to counter the exceptionally strong Sri Lankan line-up. Akshar has also shown good control in the limited opportunities that he has received so far and thus could get a look in during the first few games.
The pace attack of India promises a lot as well. The presence of speedsters Varun Aaron and Umesh Yadav bodes well for the team as does the inclusion of the experienced Ishant Sharma, who could use this series to make a comeback to the one day team. Dhawal Kulkarni will also look to make a mark in the series should he receive an opportunity.