It will be another acid test for the new look Sri Lanka composition led by Dasun Shanaka when they play host to India in the first of the three ODIs on Sunday at the R. Premadasa Stadium.
A significant change in the Lankan ranks from the side that did duty in England recently is the national selectors having opted for the 29-year old batting-all-rounder Shanaka to take over the reins from Kusal Janith Perera following the disastrous tour. Moreover, both Sri Lanka and India lock horns in a conspicuous new look cast. While Sri Lanka has accentuated on the new in showing the door to senior players including Dimuth Karunaratne, Angelo Mathews and Dinesh Chandimal, India is captained by opening batsman Shikhar Dhawan with regular captain Virat Kohli leading India’s test team in England. It will be as much a testing series for the hard hitting Dhawan who will be captaining India for the first time.
From a Sri Lankan perspective, it is also significant that the selectors have placed faith on the crop of youngsters who came a cropper in England such as batsmen Avishka Fernando, Pathum Nissanka, Charith Asalanka Dhananjaya Lakshan and Ramesh Mendis. Notably the first three got more opportunities.
Meanwhile, Kusal Janith Perera is in doubt for the series following a shoulder injury sustained in England and the wicket-keeping chore could go to either Minod Bhanuka or Isuru Udara.
In that backdrop, the explosive laft-hander Bhanuka Rajapaksa, recalled after passing a fitness test that he did not meet the requirements for the tour of England, sounds interesting. He could well make the difference in the run making. Skipper Dasun Shanaka did have a fair run in England and is expected to deliver in ideal home conditions while vice-captain Dhananjaya who top scored with 91 in the second ODI against England, is also on song to follow that example in the own backyard against the Indians.
The pace bowling department is expected to be spearheaded by Dushmantha Chameera who was the only bowler to impress in England others on the starting line are Isuru Udara, Lahiru Kumara, Kasun Rajitha and Chamika Karunaratne. In the spin bowling department it will be interesting whether Praveen Jayawickrama, who broke into big time cricket with a record 11-wicket haul on debut, will be given ago against the Indians.
From the Indian camp, skipper Shikhar Dhawan is looked to set the tone leading from the front pairing with Prithvi Shaw upfront. The rest of the frontline batting is expected to be manned by Suryakumar Yadav, Manish Pandey with the Pandya brothers to follow. The recall of Manish Pandey after a long layoff is noteworthy where his past experience, notably the match winning unbeaten century in a 331 chase down against Australia in Sydney in 2016 does enhance his credentials as a batsman the Lankans will need to watch.
The bowling will mainly revolve around strike bowler Bhuvneshwar Kumar supported by Deepak Chahar, Navdeep Saini, and Kuldeep Yadav.
SRI LANKA SQUAD:
Dasun Shanaka (Captain), Dhananjaya de Silva (Vice-Captain), Avishka Fernando, Pathum Nissanka, Charith Asalanka, Wanindu Hasaranga, Ramesh Mendis, Chamika Karunaratne, Dhananjaya Lakshan, Ishan Jayaratne, Dushmantha Chameera, Isuru Udana, Asitha Fernando, Binura Fernando, Shiran Fernando, Lakshan Sandakan, Akila Dananjaya, Praveen Jayawickrama, Ashen Bandara, Lahiru Udara, Minod Bhanuka, Lahiru Kumara, Kasun Rajitha and Bhanuka Rajapaksa, Minod Bhanuka or Lahiru Udara.
Shikhar Dhawan (Captain), Prithvi Shaw, Devdutt Padikkal, Ruturaj Gaikwad, Suryakumar Yadav, Manish Pandey, Hardik Pandya, Nitish Rana, Ishan Kishan (Wicket-keeper), Sanju Samson (Wicket-keeper), Yuzvendra Chahal, Rahul Chahar, K Gowtham, Krunal Pandya, Kuldeep Yadav, Varun Chakravarthy, Bhuvneshwar Kumar (Vice-captain), Deepak Chahar, Navdeep Saini, Chetan Sakariya.