After over two-and-a-half weeks of stay here without any competitive cricket, the Indian limited-overs team will finally get down to business in the first ODI on Sunday at the R Premadasa Stadium against Sri Lanka in what will be the first test for Rahul Dravid as coach of a senior national team.
The Indian team, led by Shikhar Dhawan, includes a few youngsters, some of who have played a few matches for India while some others are yet to play.
As many as six Indian players are uncapped although they have the high-profile Indian Premier League (IPL) experience under their belt.
While these are the last set of limited-overs internationals that India play ahead of the T20 World Cup in October-November, and they may not pick many new faces for the World Cup squad — which is by now more or less settled — the point of interest will be Dravid’s handling of the team.
The former India batsman is the director of the National Cricket Academy and has been tasked with the grooming of youngsters. He has travelled with many of the players in Sri Lanka as part of the A team on overseas tours.
Dravid’s big challenge will be his communication with the Indian team management in England for the Test series. Skipper Virat Kohli and head coach Ravi Shastri, who will comprise the team management in the T20 World Cup, will have to be kept informed about the development of the current side and their requirements will have to be taken into account.
The Indians will start favourites against a Sri Lanka side that is missing some of its top players. Three of their key players — wicketkeeper Niroshan Dickwella, batsmen Kusal Mendis and Danushka Gunathilaka – have been suspended on disciplinary grounds for breaching the bio-secure environment during the tour of England.
Batsman Kusal Perera, who won’t play the ODI and T20I series, and pacer Binura Fernando, who will miss the ODIs but play T20Is, are also missing from the squad.
For India, the focus will be on how Hardik Pandya fares as a bowler as he recovers from a back injury. He will be needed as an all-rounder during the T20 World Cup.
The focus will also be on six debutants – Devdutt Padikkal, Nitish Rana, Ruturaj Gaikwad, Chetan Sakariya, Varun Chakravarthy, and Krishnappa Gowtham.