Run feast at Rajkot

More than anything else, both India and Sri Lanka will look for a winning start in the five-game ODI series opener at Rajkot on Tuesday. In the last ODI series at home, India were humbled 4-2 by Australia’s scratch team, which had nine of its regular players missing due to injury. The defeat must have hurt their pride and the boys will make a concerted effort to redeem themselves.

On the other hand, having lost the three-game Test series 2-0 and squared the Twenty20 series 1-1, Sri Lanka will be looking to make a winning start and return home with a series win in this format at least.

India

Return of the batting virtuoso Sachin Tendulkar will add both solidity and fire power to the batting line-up. It can’t get better than Sachin and Sehwag walking to the wicket to open the innings.

Delhi dazzler scorched the Test series with his brand of blitzkrieg and the Twenty20 was no different. He threatens to continue in the same fashion in the ODI format as well. The suggestion from coach Gary Kirsten of staying at the wicket for the first 10 overs seems to have done wonders to his batting. Muttiah Muralitharan feels Sehwag is playing his best cricket; he should know better after what happened to him in the Mumbai Test.

Sachin will also like to leave his mark on the ODI series, just the way Sehwag and Rahul Dravid did in the Test series. Such has been his consistency over the last two decades that one never ceases to expect big scores from the ageless run-machine.

The Rajkot game will be an opportunity for the young players to come good. Virat Kohli is likely to replace Yuvraj Singh and he should make this opportunity count. It’s another match where Suresh Raina can make an impact in the absence of Yuvraj Singh.

Among the bowlers, seamer Zaheer Khan will be making his ODI return after 10 months and that’ll give Indian bowling attack some more bite. He, along with medium-pacers Ashish Nehra and Praveen Kumar, will be a potent force against the Lankans and are expected to do some early damage.

Sri Lanka

Kumar Sangakkara will like to start the series on a winning note. Since the last Test in Mumbai, he has led the team’s batting from the front. Moreover, his batsmen have been in a good nick and that should give him a lot of heart.

Sanath Jayasuriya, Sanga’s most experienced batsman, will be seen in a new role. The left-hand batsman will be coming down the batting order to add solidity to the line-up. His vast experience will come to his aid in pacing the innings in the middle overs.

The bowling attack has received a setback as Lasith Malinga is indisposed and coach Trevor Bayliss said he is not sure about the speedster. Medium pacer Thilan Thushara is likely to play if Malinga sits out. In all probability, Dilhara Fernando will be sharing the new ball with him.

As it is a day match, Sangakkara will be going with his most experienced spinner Muttiah Muralitharan, whom the young Indian batsmen may find a tough proposition to negotiate.

Pitch

Going by Indian captain MS Dhoni and the Lankan coach Trevor Bayliss, it’s a flat track. However, wintry conditions in the morning are likely to assist the medium pacers for the first half-an-hour. So, the batsmen will have to be cautious early in the session and then go for the leather hunt.

Shorn of grass, the track will encourage batsmen to cover the line of the ball and go for their shots. The runs are expected to come thick and fast; bowlers are likely to cut a sorry figure for themselves. But then that’s One-day cricket more often than not.

Probable Elevens:

India: Virender Sehwag, Sachin Tendulkar, Gautam Gambhir, Virat Kohli, Suresh Raina, MS Dhoni (capt/wk), Ravindra Jadeja, Harbhajan Singh, Praveen Kumar, Zaheer Khan, Ashish Nehra

Sri Lanka: Upul Tharanga, Tillakaratne Dilshan, Kumar Sangakkara (capt/wk), Mahela Jayawardene, Thilan Samaraweera/Thilina Kandamby, Sanath Jayasuriya, Angelo Mathews, Muttiah Muralitharan, Lasith Malinga/Thilan Thushara, Dilhara Fernando


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