Sri Lanka are looking to new captain Upul Tharanga for redemption in the one-day international series starting Sunday against India after enduring a humiliating Test whitewash on home soil.
Tharanga will lead the islanders into the opening match of the ODI series in Dambulla, having been appointed limited-overs captain to revive the ailing team after their shock 3-2 loss to minnows Zimbabwe.
Angelo Mathews stepped aside as captain after that defeat, vacating the top job to Tharanga who takes the helm at a low point for Sri Lankan cricket, with a form slump and injuries dogging the beleaguered side.
Tharanga, 32, has urged fans to be patient, insisting the “rough patch” will pass for the 50-over 1996 World Cup winners.
“Sri Lanka have always been stronger in our white-ball format, and I am confident that we will come out strong and beat India,” Tharanga said in a statement from Sri Lanka Cricket.
“We have the talent, we have the skill. We have been putting in the hard work, we just need the spirit, and for that we need your support too,” added the left-handed batsman.
Sri Lanka have recalled all-rounders Thisara Perera and Milinda Siriwardana. Left-arm spinner Malinda Pushpakumara and paceman Vishwa Fernando, who were both part of the bowling attack in the Test series against India are expected to make their respective ODI debuts.
But the eighth-ranked ODI side do not have history on their side.
They were swept aside by India 5-0 in their last ODI series in 2014, and more recently bowed out of the Champions Trophy short-format contest in the first round.
– India on guard –
India, whose last tour of Sri Lanka in 2015 ushered in a new era of supremacy for the top-ranked Test side, are looking to ride their sweep of Test victories into the shorter-format series.
The loss of their Champions Trophy title to arch-rival Pakistan was a bitter pill for India, and the two-time World Champions will be seeking a comeback in Sri Lanka.
Newly-appointed ODI vice-captain Rohit Sharma urged his men against becoming complacent, reminding them of their surprise loss to Sri Lanka in the opening round of the Champions Trophy.
“I have no idea about the squad for this ODI series, but what they had in the Champions Trophy was a very good side. They beat us quite comfortably,” said Sharma.
“So you know in one-day cricket they are a very good team. We just got to do what we have been doing in the past few years.”
The series offers India’s second line of talent a moment in the spotlight with spinners Ravindra Jadeja and Ravichandran Ashwin, and pacemen Mohammed Shami and Umesh Yadav, being rested by selectors.
Young spinners Axar Patel and Yuzvendra Chahal are expected to make the starting lineup in one or more of the five matches. Uncapped quick Shardul Thakur may also get a look in.
India are scheduled to play a lone Twenty20 in Colombo on September 6 after the completion of the ODI series.
Sri Lanka: Upul Tharanga (captain), Angelo Mathews, Niroshan Dickwella (wicketkeeper), Dhanushka Gunathilaka, Kusal Mendis, Chamara Kapugedera, Milinda Siriwardana, Malinda Pushpakumara, Akila Dananjaya, Lakshan Sandakan, Thisara Perera, Wanindu Hasaranga, Lasith Malinga, Dushmantha Chameera, Vishwa Fernando.
India: Virat Kohli (Captain), Shikhar Dhawan, Rohit Sharma (vice captain), Lokesh Rahul, Manish Pandey, Ajinkya Rahane, Kedar Jadhav, Mahendra Singh Dhoni (wicketkeeper), Hardik Pandya, Axar Patel, Kuldeep Yadav, Yuzvendra Chahal, Jasprit Bumrah, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Shardul Thakur.