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Inexperienced but hungry, India seek bright start

It’s been four years since India and Sri Lanka have contested in a bilateral ODI series, a period when the cricketing might of the two teams have headed in opposite directions. It’s come to a point where Sri Lanka’s newly-appointed captain Dasun Shanaka believes India’s near-second string side could offer an even contest even at home. And he probably isn’t far away from the truth.

Even as India have a favourable 91-56 head-to-head record against Sri Lanka, one of one-day cricket’s most-oft played, yet understated rivalries have taken a mighty dip. For the two sides that played 79 ODIs from 2005 to 2017, there isn’t ample carrying forward for a rivalry to hold. Barring the pre-series jibe by Arjuna Ranatunga at the Sri Lankan Cricket Board agreeing to host a weak Indian side, there isn’t a lot of heat exchanged.

A key reason for that is the hosts have found themselves dealing with enough internal conflict recently to pick up any more battles outside. Danushka Gunathilaka, Kusal Mendis and Niroshan Dickwella were recently sent home after breaching the bio-bubble in England. Two other members of the team management were tested positive on their return from the tour, and for precautionary measures, the series was postponed. Injuries and internal rebellion against the central contracts have only added to their woes. Of all the confusion that remains, Chaminda Vaas’s position in the coaching setup isn’t one of them.

India, on the other hand, may not be tussling for the World Cup qualification, but they have filled the squad with a set of players hungry to prove themselves. This is an unexpected opportunity that has come the way of many, who would’ve otherwise been restricted to grinding harder at the ‘A’ level.

Yet, Shanaka who now holds the seat in the musical chair of Sri Lanka’s captaincy, believes that even with an inexperienced squad at his disposal, which was named less than 48 hours prior to the start of the series, will hold an advantage – of the surprise factor. It did to a fair extent stun England at the 2019 World Cup, but will it hold effective against an equally inexperienced but hungry Indian team?

When: Sunday, July 18, 2021, 15:00 IST

Where: R Premadasa Stadium, Colombo

What to expect: Scattered thunderstorms are predicted on Sunday. As a result, the game is likely to stop and start, and so will the momentum.

Team News:

India: Shikhar Dhawan will be on his first assignment as the national captain. With 10 out of 20 players in the squad uncapped, expect a few debut caps to be handed during the series.

Likely XI: Shikhar Dhawan (c), Prithvi Shaw, Manish Pandey, Suryakumar Yadav, Ishan Kishan (wk), Hardik Pandya, Krunal Pandya, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Kuldeep Yadav, Chetan Sakariya, Yuzvendra Chahal

Sri Lanka: Dasun Shanaka has been handed the responsibility of carrying forward Sri Lanka’s ship. The squad is severely depleted with the absence of several top players. Angelo Mathews has opted out due to personal reasons. Kusal Perera and Binura Fernando have been ruled out due to injuries.

Likely XI: Avishka Fernando, Minod Bhanuka (wk), Patthum Nissanka, Dhananjaya de Silva, Oshada Fernando, Wanindu Hasaranga, Dasun Shanaka, Chamika Karunaratne, Akila Dhananjaya, Dushmantha Chameera, Lakshan Sandakan

Did you know?

– 2021 will be the 37th consecutive year in which India and Sri Lanka would face off in at least a game in international cricket. The last time the two sides did not play against each other in a calendar year was way back in 1983.

– Sri Lanka and India have played against each in 159 ODIs – the most between any two sides.

– A win by a margin of 3-0, 2-0 or 2-1 will give India 93 wins in ODIs against Sri Lanka – the most for a team against an opponent.

What they said:

“These are very talented young guys. We’ve seen them in their respective IPL teams. They have done really well there to grab their spots in the Indian team. I don’t think they need much guidance. You just go and talk to them if there’s a need for something to talk about. We never try to make anything complicated. We’ve got Rahul Dravid with us, he is guiding them really well.” – Bhuvneshwar Kumar on India’s young squad.

“Both teams will start evenly because they (India) have got new players coming up, we all know that they have played IPL but still they haven’t played international cricket, so both the teams have an even chance… We have a slight advantage because they haven’t seen these guys in international cricket, as well, so they have to prepare well for these newcomers as well.” – Dasun Shanaka, the Sri Lankan captain, is confident that his young squad also has an advantage.

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