| Irfan Pathan enjoying a walk along the Hambantota beach, on Friday. India play Sri Lanka in the first ODI, on Saturday |
Hambantota: A rejuvenated India would look for a winning start to the new season but the task would be easier said than done against a strong Sri Lanka as the two sides clash in a five-match ODI series starting here Saturday.
Barring the Indian Premier League, Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s India have not been in action since their last international outing in South Africa in March.
The hosts, by contrast, have been playing regularly at home. They beat Pakistan in both ODIs and Tests in the last series, outplaying the high-riding opponents with a clinical performance.
But India are not Pakistan and are known for greater deeds of consistency at the very high echelons of competitiveness.
Dhoni echoed the Indians’ familiarity with the conditions saying, “we are no strangers to Sri Lankan conditions. So acclimatisation would not be an issue”.
The Indian captain was implying that the near two-month break the players have had since the IPL would serve them well as the team aims to win the series to start the new season on a happy note.
Dhoni made no secret of India’s ambitions on their next tour here, the World Twenty20. He was happy that most of the players in the touring team would form the nucleus of the side for the World Twenty20.
For Mahela Jayawardene and the Sri Lankans, it would just be the continuation of the good yields in the series against Pakistan.
“We have just finished a good series against Pakistan. It is now for us to build on the good work,” Jayawardene said.
Like his opposite number, the Lankan captain thought the series should provide a good basis to launch the World T20 campaign.
“We have got a few new players in the squad, this series would be a good opportunity for them,” Jayawardene stressed.
Vice-captain Virat Kohli and Rohit Sharma would be the players to watch out for apart from a couple of comeback men — opener Virender Sehwag and pace spearhead Zaheer Khan. Vinay Kumar’s injury, which put Irfan Pathan back in the squad, seemed to have silenced the argument that the Indians were lacking a genuine all-rounder in the squad.
Off-spinner Ravichandran Ashwin would also look to make an impression on the spin-friendly tracks here. The Indians will be top heavy with Sehwag and Ajinkya Rahane firing, should the 24-year-old batsman be able to extend his IPL form.
India (from): Virender Sehwag, Ajinkya Rahane, Gautam Gambhir, Virat Kohli, Suresh Raina, Rohit Sharma, Mahendra Singh Dhoni, Ravichandran Ashwin, Zaheer Khan, Rahul Sharma, Umesh Yadav, Pragyan Ojha, Ashok Dinda, Irfan Pathan, Manoj Tiwary,
Sri Lanka (from): Mahela Jayawardene, Angelo Mathews, Tillekaratne Dilshan, Kumar Sangakkara, Upul Tharanga, Dinesh Chandimal, Nuwan Kulasekara, Thisara Perera, Lahiru Thirimanne, Lasith Malinga, Chamara Kapugedara, Rangana Herath, Sachithra Senanayake, Jeevan Mendis, Isuru Udana.
Match starts: 2.30 pm (IST).