Big picture: India overwhelming favourites
A few years ago, Sri Lanka were truly pathetic in the ODI format, but look, they’re a little better now. Or this is at least what we’re hoping. In the last year, they’ve won six of their 10 completed ODIs. Full disclosure, six of those matches were against Zimbabwe and Afghanistan. But then there was a glorious home series victory over Australia as well. In general, they are passing off as a team on an upward trajectory.
The problem is, India of course are monsters at home. Since the start of 2020, They’ve won nine of their 12 completed ODIs in the country (and how strange a reality that India have only played 12 ODIs at home in the space of three years, when there used to be a time when they would have played 12 against Sri Lanka alone in that time.)
And let’s not talk about how the teams line up on paper. Because on paper, India tend to smash Sri Lanka every time now. Thankfully, on the field, the rivalry has not been quite so one-sided, in T20Is at least.
On the fast-bowling front, Arshdeep Singh and Umran Malik may be fighting for the same spot. If either of them were Sri Lanka players, they’d be playing no question.
India beat Sri Lanka on paper every time. It has often been this way. But Sri Lanka have also had their way of defying their statistics and record.
(completed matches, most recent first)
Sri Lanka WLLWW
In the spotlight: Another Kohli masterclass incoming?
Virat Kohli‘s record against Sri Lanka is fearsome. In 46 innings against this opposition, he has 2220 runs – second only to his tally against the West Indies, and only marginally. He has eight hundreds and eleven fifties against them, and despite many of these matches coming on slow Sri Lankan tracks, has a strike rate of 91. There are perhaps brighter batting lights in the Indian galaxy right now, but few that Sri Lanka’s bowlers will fear more than Kohli. He’s fresh off an ODI century too, having hit 113 against Bangladesh in December.
There can be little question now, that Sri Lanka’s white-ball fortunes have turned a corner since Dasun Shanaka became captain. Mostly, the turnaround has come in the T20 format (hello, Asia Cup). But in ODIs too, there does seem to be some semblance of a revival. The issue for Shanaka is that he has been a poor ODI player so far, averaging less than 25 with the bat, even if with a healthy strike rate of 94, often coming in towards the death stage of an innings. He’s in spectacular form at present, and will want that to carry into the ODIs.
Pitch and conditions
In the one ODI played at Guwahati, in 2018, West Indies made 322 for 8, then India chased it down easy, in the 43rd over. No rain is expected to interrupt this match.
Team news: Iyer or SKY in the XI?
India XI (possible): 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 on the seam-bowling front, but their top order and spin attack should be reasonably settled.
Sri Lanka (possible): 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 get to play nine ODIs at home [before the World Cup]. It’s a good opportunity for us to figure out what we want to do in the World Cup. In these nine games we can try out a few things – what could be our best combination, and how we want to play, which we have actually already planned.”
– India captain Rohit Sharma
Andrew Fidel Fernando is ESPNcricinfo’s Sri Lanka correspondent. @afidelf