Ajinkya Rahane is the big worry for India going into the Sri Lanka ODI series and before the big one against South Africa next month. His form, in his preferred longest format, had been patchy with confidence clearly not running high for the top order batsman. For India, without Virat Kohli in the side and Rohit Sharma taking the leadership role, a clean sweep will comfortably edge them ahead of South Africa in the ICC ODI rankings while a win in the first contest alone would take the side forward on decimal places.
Sri Lankan team would breathe much easier, literally, from New Delhi to Dharamsala, and the focus shifting from Test matches to the limited over matches. With the match starting at 11.30 AM in cooler and bouncy conditions, the toss would prove to be an important one.
Even without Kohli in the side, India’s batting lineup is well set to create plenty of damage on the Sri Lankans. Rohit Sharma and Shikhar Dhawan are expected to open with Rahane likely to take the number one spot in Kohli’s absence. However, Dhawan’s fever on Friday could see Rahane promoted to the top of the order and allow him plenty of time to set himself and make a mark.
Rohit Sharma comes into the ODI series in pulsating form having scored 102, 65 and 50* in the three innings against Sri Lanka in the Test matches. Prior to that, he had scored big against West Indies away and Australia at home as well.
However, all eyes would be firmly set on how Rahane performs with an eye on breaking the jinx. Dinesh Karthik and MS Dhoni are likely to take the next two spots in the batting lineup before Hardik Pandya comes in next. Kedar Jadhav has been ruled out of the ODI series with Washington Sundar coming in.
The contest poses an interesting proposition with Karthik and Dhoni, both wicketkeeper batsmen, coming together in the same format. Karthik had struck a fifty in the two chances he got in the West Indies while against New Zealand he scored 37, 64* and 4* to make an impression as a keeper for the future especially with Dhoni coming under the lens. Former India skipper had come under fire for slowed progress in the T20s against New Zealand which resulted in a loss in the second T20.
Jadhav’s absence could open doors for Shreyas Iyer and Manish Pandey to enter the side should both Dhawan and Jadhav not play in the first ODI. “Shikhar and Kedar have taken the field now and they are pretty much part of the 15 and we will assess how they go about today,” skipper Rohit Sharma said before training session.
Plenty of attention will be on a returning Hardik Pandya after some time off to unwind and get ready for things in South Africa. He would look to end the year on a high with the ODI and T20 series.