Lasith Malinga and Rohit Sharma    Getty Images
Lasith Malinga and Rohit Sharma Getty Images

Virat Kohli and co. will look to complete their winning-streak against Sri Lanka as they begin the expedition to a 5-match ODI series at Dambulla. Sri Lanka who are currently positioned 8th in the ODI rankings need to make a point under their new captain Upul Tharanga with World Cup 2019 round the corner. Sri Lanka faces a stiff competition against West Indies who are sailing in the same boat. Two victories for Sri Lanka can make the difference whereas West Indies have to win the only ODI against Ireland and the series against England. Meanwhile, Sri Lanka will look forward to draw inspiration from their win against India in the Champions Trophy less than 2 months back.

As for India their form, confidence, runs and wickets are in place with return of their experienced limited-over specialists players. Let us have a look at some of the key battles that could make this clash competitive:

Rohit Sharma vs Lasith Malinga: The clash between these prolific cricketers would be interesting. Rohit is aware of all the techniques of his Mumbai Indians (MI) counterpart. Now with an additional responsibility of being the vice-captain, Rohit will have to show his magic with the willow and lead from the front. Rohit scored a sound 79-ball 78 and was dismissed by Malinga during the Champions Trophy. Rohit was almost on the top of the leading run-scorer s list. Rohit also relishes the Sri Lankan bowling attack and who can forget that colossal 264. However, Malinga has not been to the best of his form since IPL and would look to revive his fortunes.

Upul Tharanga vs Kuldeep Yadav: Sri Lanka batsmen had a tough time dealing with a certain Kuldeep during the final Test in the absence of Ravindra Jadeja. India would look up to Kuldeep for yet another spin option with no Jadeja and Ravichandran Ashwin in the squad. Tharanga, being the captain, has to prove his stance. His single digit scores during the second and third Test did not give a pretty view. Tharanga has confirmed of playing at No. 4 position and has the responsibility to restore faith of his side through his batting. He also has to restore faith in his ailing team after a disappointing 0-3 whitewash.

Hardik Pandya vs Angelo Mathews: The clash of all-rounders it is. Both bat lower down the order. Both can destruct the innings with their bat. Hardik has announced himself in the Sri Lanka series with his maiden Test century, playing like a limited-overs cricket and has also shown some skill with his impeccable bowling. Mathews has not bowled in the recent times and it will be interesting to see if he can roll his arms over. He was also one of the driving forces to Sri Lanka s victory against India in Champions Trophy and would want to continue that momentum.

Sri Lanka s own battle in ODIs: Apart from these key battles the larger battle for Sri Lanka will be to win against their form in the ODIs. Over the past year, Sri Lanka have lost most number of ODIs. They played 26 ODIs with the win-loss ratio reading 8:16. The series against Bangladesh drew while they lost against Australia at home. With Bangladesh well ahead of Sri Lanka and the competition getting tougher for the World Cup with West Indies having plenty of series coming up; Sri Lanka would want to draw inspiration from their distant Oval victory and familiarity with conditions for this series.