2 new captains. 1 common goal (© Getty/AFP)
2 new captains. 1 common goal (© Getty/AFP)

Sri Lanka have never won a bilateral ODI series in India. India have won 5 ODIs and lost 1 at Visakhapatnam (their second-highest win-percentage among all venues in India). Thisara Perera and men will eye a shot at history when they take on the Indian side, led by Rohit Sharma, for the third ODI at Dr YS Rajasekhara Reddy ACA-VDCA Cricket Stadium in Visakhapatnam on Sunday.

Sri Lanka had India on the mat at Dharamsala. The 29 for 7 scoreline will haunt India for a while. MS Dhoni anchored the ship in murky waters, but 112 was not enough. The Dhoni hurdle is of course a serious one. It was at this venue where Dhoni announced himself with his maiden international hundred in 2005. The 148 against Pakistan is evergreen thanks to YouTube.

For Dhoni to get to the three-figure mark, India will need to stop experimenting with the No. 4 slot and have the veteran slotted there. That seems unlikely at the moment. If Dhoni gets 102, he will be the fourth Indian and second wicketkeeper-batsman to have amassed 10,000 runs in ODIs.

Rohit Sharma 208: The 4 sixes that burst the Suranga Lakmal bubble
Rohit Sharma 208: The 4 sixes that burst the Suranga Lakmal bubble

To get past Dhoni, they first have to surpass Rohit. Sri Lanka were walloped by him at Mohali. He has tormented them enough. From 1971 to 2009, we saw no double-hundred in ODIs. Sachin Tendulkar breached the mark in 2010; Virender Sehwag followed the suit a year and half later. Two years on, Rohit joined the wagon. This decade has seen 7 individual 200-plus ODI scores: Rohit has 3 and 2 of them came against Sri Lanka.

The last time Rohit played here, he got injured and did not play for India for over 7 months. His mother hails from this very city. He has 2 fifties at this venue with a highest of 90 not out. Why not better those numbers?

“After you get a hundred, why not get another? Why not just keep batting?” Rohit told after the Mohali ODI. Another hundred and Rohit will go past Virat Kohli. With 7 hundreds, he will top the list of most ODI centuries in 2017.

If that is the mood, Sri Lanka have a task in hand.

Not to forget there is Dhawan…

Shikhar Dhawan found himself out of the Indian team in the first half of 2017. He had been in wavy form since the West Indies tour 2016. The Deodhar Trophy 2016-17 was his ticket to national comeback. He was selected to play in the Parthiv Patel-led India B. Visakhapatnam was the venue for the tournament.

Dhawan began with a 122-ball 128, followed by 48-ball 50 and eventually 34-ball 45 in the final. An average of over 74 and a strike rate of over 109 paved his way back to the national side, and he has not looked back since his golden run in the Champions Trophy.

India vs Sri Lanka, 3rd ODI at Visakhapatnam, statistical preview: MS Dhoni eyes 10,000 ODI runs
India vs Sri Lanka, 3rd ODI at Visakhapatnam, statistical preview: MS Dhoni eyes 10,000 ODI runs

“I’ve always loved coming back to Vizag. Very beautiful city, very clean city and of course the property in which we are living, it has the sea in front of us, it’s beautiful. And of course I did well in the Deodhar Trophy as you said and after that there was a drastic change in my career. As they say, Vizag is a city of destiny isn’t it? It has been good for me and I always enjoy coming here,” Dhawan told reporters ahead of the clash.

Mathews boost

Angelo Mathews was Sri Lanka’s saving grace at Mohali. He looked in discomfort en route 111 not out. He has been declared fit for the decider.

Mathews has opened the bowling in both matches, starting with a maiden — in fact, a maiden wicket at Dharamsala where he dismissed Shikhar Dhawan for nought. He has dismissed Rohit 9 times in international cricket, a stat that will please the Sri Lankans.

While Lankans were taken to the cleaners at Mohali, Mathews bowled 4 overs for only 9 runs.

Wrist-spin temptation

The last time an ODI was staged at Visakhapatnam, Amit Mishra wreaked havoc in the New Zealand camp. That too was a decider, in October 2016. Mishra’s 5 for 18 saw India pocket the game by 190 runs, and the series 3-2.

Both sides have wrist-spinners. Mishra’s success here will act as a boost to Akila Dananjaya, who not too long back, had Indians on the floor at Pallekele. India too have Yuzvendra Chahal in the camp, and they may be tempted to bring in the attacking option of Chinaman with Kuldeep Yadav.

Likely XIs

Dinesh Karthik too made a comeback courtesy his form in Deodhar Trophy at this venue. He not only led Tamil Nadu to the title win but also amassed 247 runs at 82.33 at a strike rate of 115.4. Karthik is yet to score a run in this series, but he is set to play at No.4 as India seem to be headstrong about Ajinkya Rahane. The stylish Mumbaikar role remains that of a back-up opener.

Mind you, Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Jasprit Bumrah have not been at their best. In them India have two of the finest pacers in limited-overs. This means Siddarth Kaul will have to wait for his India cap.

India’s probable XI: Rohit Sharma (c), Shikhar Dhawan, Shreyas Iyer, Dinesh Karthik, Manish Pandey, MS Dhoni (wk), Hardik Pandya, Washington Sundar/Kuldeep Yadav, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Jasprit Bumrah, Yuzvendra Chahal

“Took a look at the pitch, it looks to me a bit dry. Past matches there has been only one high scoring game. Today and yesterday there has been good sunshine and I am sure there will be turn and the wicket will be slow,” observed Perera.

Sri Lanka maybe tempted to play an additional spinner and Chaturanga de Silva may come in to the mix. However, their batting too has not supported them off late which means there will be a heavy reliability on senior pros Upul Tharanga and Mathews.

Sri Lanka’s probable XI: Danushka Gunathilaka/Sadeera Samarawickrama, Upul Tharanga, Lahiru Thirimanne, Angelo Mathews, Niroshan Dickwella (wk), Asela Gunaratne, Thisara Perera (c), Sachith Pathirana/Chaturanga de Silva, Akila Dananjaya, Suranga Lakmal, Nuwan Pradeep

Conditions

Sri Lanka are hopeful. Why not? Perera said, “Vizag is similar to Sri Lanka when it comes to weather and stuff. Mohali and Dharamsala were completely different. It was a total different story. We are well prepared. Here I hope we will be able to do something special as this is something similar to what we find at home.”

Indians remain hopeful confident. “We are a strong side and we believe in our ability and our skill, we are going to go out and play it like any other game, just do the basics right,” said Dhawan.

Not only they are the No. 2 ranked ODI side, but also they beat Sri Lanka 5-0 in their own den earlier this year.

The temperature will remain in the late 20s and it is expected to sunny. Batters, pacers, spinners all have enjoyed here historically. Ingredients for a good ODI is on the cards.

Sri Lanka eye history with a repeat of Dharamsala performance, while odds continue to favour India heavily.

Squads:

India: Rohit Sharma (c), Shikhar Dhawan, Shreyas Iyer, Manish Pandey, Dinesh Karthik, MS Dhoni (wk), Hardik Pandya, Ajinkya Rahane, Akshar Patel, Kuldeep Yadav, Yuzvendra Chahal, Jasprit Bumrah, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Washington Sundar, Siddarth Kaul

Sri Lanka: Thisara Perera (c), Upul Tharanga, Danushka Gunathilaka, Kusal Perera, Niroshan Dickwella (wk), Sadeera Samarawickrama, Lahiru Thirimanne, Angelo Mathews, Asela Gunaratne, Sachith Pathirana, Akila Dananjaya, Dushmantha Chameera, Suranga Lakmal, Nuwan Pradeep, Dhananjaya de Silva, Chathuranga de Silva

Time: 13.30 IST | 8:30 GMT