India's break ends, Sri Lanka's grind extends
Match factsSaturday, July 21
Start time 1430 (0900 GMT)
Big PictureYet another India v Sri Lanka series is upon us. While the Indian team has racked up its frequent flyer miles with regular trips to Sri Lanka over the past few years, they start this series in an unfamiliar location. The stadium at Hambantota, a port town in southern Sri Lanka, was built for the World Cup and India haven't played a game there yet.
The ground recently hosted a couple of Twenty20s during Pakistan's tour and, if those matches are anything to go by, the bowlers should enjoy themselves. With Zaheer Khan back spearheading the attack, and Umesh Yadav providing the pace, India's bowling looks in better shape than it did in their previous ODI series, the Asia Cup in Dhaka.
One advantage India will have over the home side is that the team comes in with six weeks of rest, a rare luxury in recent years. On the other hand Sri Lanka, especially their IPL players, have been playing almost non-stop since their previous home season began last August. With the SLPL starting days after this series ends, and the World Twenty20 following soon after, Sri Lanka's players have a while to go yet before they can think of a rest.
Sri Lanka WWWLL (Completed games, most recent first)
Watch out for...In the 15 months since last year's World Cup, Virender Sehwag has played only nine ODIs due to a combination of injuries, the controversial rotation system and being rested. In those matches, he blasted the record-breaking 219 in Indore, but hasn't otherwise crossed 30.
Sri Lanka's batting order has undergone plenty of changes over the past few months. Will they again push Jayawardene to the top of the order or stick with Upul Tharanga, who had a poor series against Pakistan? And if Jayawardene takes a middle-order place, will it be his usual position at No. 4, or will he go one spot lower as he did against Pakistan?
Team newsOne of the questions India will have to address is whether to play Irfan Pathan as an allrounder at No. 7, or go in with a specialist batsman at that position. If they do pick a specialist batsman for that position, it will likely be Manoj Tiwary, who has spent plenty of time on the bench over the past few months. Dhoni hinted that they will pick Irfan for the first game. "He gives us the liberty of playing with five specialist bowlers," he said. "We can play two spinners and three seamers because Irfan can also bat."
India: (probable) 1 Virender Sehwag, 2 Gautam Gambhir, 3 Virat Kohli, 4 MS Dhoni (capt & wk), 5 Rohit Sharma, 6 Suresh Raina, 7 Irfan Pathan, 8 R Ashwin, 9 Zaheer Khan, 10 Umesh Yadav, 11 Pragyan Ojha
Sri Lanka have experimented with a whole lot of spinners over the past couple of years, but are still to zero in on a permanent slow bowler for their limited-overs side. The squad for this series includes Jeevan Mendis, who impressed with bat and ball in the one match he got against Pakistan, and Rangana Herath, who has cemented his place as lead spinner in the Test side but isn't yet as secure in the shorter forms.
Sri Lanka: (probable) 1 Tillakaratne Dilshan, 2 Upul Tharanga, 3 Kumar Sangakkara (wk), 4 Dinesh Chandimal, 5 Mahela Jayawardene (capt), 6 Lahiru Thirimanne, 7 Angelo Mathews, 8 Thisara Perera, 9 Nuwan Kulasekara, 10 Lasith Malinga, 11 Rangana Herath
Stats and trivia
- Upul Tharanga averages 37.12 against all teams in ODIs since the start of 2010, but only makes 11.76 an innings against India in that period.
- Lasith Malinga leads the ODI wicket-chart for 2012, with 36 scalps.
- Virat Kohli's ODI average of 50.56 puts him fifth in the all-time list
Quotes"We have had the match practice and the guys are in pretty good form, we will try and continue that. For the Indians, it's a different story, they have to get back to a rhythm. On the other hand, they are fresher than us after us going through six months of continuous cricket."
Mahela Jayawardene think a break from cricket isn't necessarily a blessing
"[Managing Zaheer's workload] is important but I don't think we need to think about it from the very first game. We need to also get him match-fit."
MS Dhoni is aware India's injury-prone pace leader needs to be used wisely
Siddarth Ravindran is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo