Having convincingly lost the recent Test series against India 3-0, Sri Lanka will be looking for a change of fortune as focus shifts to the white ball. The first of a five match bilateral ODI series takes place on Sunday 20th August at the Rangiri Dambulla International Stadium in Dambulla in the centre of Sri Lanka.
India will undoubtedly start as strong favourites, being ranked third in in the ICC ODI team rankings, as compared to their hosts’ lowly eighth position. Sri Lanka are also still smarting from the shock 3-2 series defeat to even lower ranked Zimbabwe that resulted in the resignation of their captain Angelo Mathews, while India easily dealt with the West Indies 3-1 in their most recent ODI encounter.
That said, there is the small matter of the fact that the last time the two sides met, the islanders stunned their neighbours with a shock win in a ICC Champions Trophy group stage clash at The Oval.
New Captain Upul Tharanga’s men also have added incentive in the series. Only the top eight sides in the ODI rankings as at 30 September 2017 qualifying automatically for the 2019 ICC World Cup in England. Sri Lanka will be looking for two wins out of five to ensure they secure that final eighth spot ahead of the West Indies, regardless of how the Windies perform in their upcoming series against England later in the summer.
From a personal player point of view, there are one or two very significant personal milestones to watch out for:
Lasith Malinga (Sri Lanka)
If selected as anticipated, Sri Lanka’s leading fast bowler will play in his 200th ODI for his country, becoming the 13th player from the island to do so.
He also currently has 298 ODI wickets, so two more in Dambulla will see him become the fourth Sri Lankan after Murali, Chaminda Vaas and Sanith Jayasuriya to bring up the milestone, and only the 13th worldwide.
MS Dhoni (India)
Much has been made in recent days of the Indian chairman of selectors MSK Prasad’s comments that Dhoni’s playing days in the national side may be numbered, but the wily ex=skipper will firmly believe he has a few more games in him just yet.
One number he will be keeping an eye on is Sri Lankan Kumar Sangakkara’s world record of 99 ODI stumpings. MS sits just two behind on 97, and will be keen to claim that record for himself before the tap on the shoulder finally does come.