Jasprit Bumrah (left) and Upul Tharanga    AFP
Jasprit Bumrah (left) and Upul Tharanga AFP

From the gas chamber to the serene hills, the centre of action for Sri Lanka’s tour of India shifts to Dharamsala. Three bits that have topped the discussion list in this tour are Virat Kohli’s form, Murali Vijay’s comeback, and of course, pollution. All of the three will be absent as the teams gear up for the first ODI.

India and Sri Lanka are mismatch in contemporary cricket. India have walloped their little neighbours expressing no mercy. Even if we stretch our filter to last five years in order to accommodate the Mahelas, Sangas and Dilshans, the results show India’s dominance.

India vs Sri Lanka (last five years)

Formats IND win SL win Draw NR Tie
Tests 6 1 2 0 0
ODIs 13 3 0 0 0
T20Is 4 2 0 0 0

Trivia: Sri Lanka beat India in 2017 Champions Trophy and 2014 World T20 final.

India have rested Kohli and few other key players ahead of the South Africa series, and despite that the home side wears a dominant look. Sri Lanka have lost 12 ODIs in a row, and they will have to pull out a special one from the hat in order to break the jinx. Head-to-head on paper, India look too strong. Let me struggle my way to find the possible key battles.

Rohit Sharma vs No. 1 challenge: Rohit played 3 innings in the Test series, scoring a century and two fifties. In the last home ODI series he had against Sri Lanka, he massacred them en route to 264. India recently bludgeoned Sri Lanka 5-0 at their backyard three months back; Rohit then finished with a fifty and two hundreds in five games. This isn’t about his talent but the latent skill that he possesses.

India will dethrone South Africa from No. 1 spot if they whitewash Sri Lanka in ODIs
India will dethrone South Africa from No. 1 spot if they whitewash Sri Lanka in ODIs

Rohit is IPL’s most successful skipper. He has 3 trophies in his kitty along with a CLT20 title. He is set to be India’s 24th ODI skipper. India, already the No.1 Test side, are a spot behind South Africa in ODIs. A 3-0 whitewash will get them there. Rohit’s challenge begins from step one, from Dharamsala, on Sunday.

Thisara Perera vs 0-15-threat: Sri Lanka too have a new man at helm. Perera is their sixth ODI skipper since 2016. Sri Lanka have suffered three ODI whitewashes this year, and have lost their last 12 ODIs. Can the Sri Lankan all-rounder stop the slide to 0-15?

Sri Lankan players vs breathing issues: Sri Lankan players, who bore the brunt of Delhi’s pollution, were seen enjoying themselves at Dharamsala.

https://twitter.com/upultharanga44/status/939049124019691520

Will they breathe easy at the picturesque venue? They ideally should. But, the HPCA ground is 4,000 feet above sea level. Playing at a high altitude has always been a concern for sportspersons. Hopefully, they will bring their Kandy experience here and the masks will not make way for oxygen masks.

Now for some players vs player…

Jasprit Bumrah vs Upul Tharanga: In the last series against Sri Lanka, Bumrah drove away a mini-truck (why a mini-truck?). He received it as the Player of the Series. Bumrah, the ranked No. 3 ODI bowler, will eye another Sri Lankan demolition. Sri Lanka’s hopes will be pinned on their former captain Upul Tharanga to see through the Bumrah threat.

Tharanga has 860 ODI runs this year at almost 48. His strike rate is above 89. Can he bail the side out of crisis?

India vs Sri Lanka, 1st ODI at Dharamsala, preview and likely XIs: Focus shifts from smog to dew, Virat Kohli to Rohit Sharma
India vs Sri Lanka, 1st ODI at Dharamsala, preview and likely XIs: Focus shifts from smog to dew, Virat Kohli to Rohit Sharma

Yuzvendra Chahal vs Angelo Mathews: Chahal has a knack of hunting bunnies. Mathews might just be the sitting duck. Ravindra Jadeja had a merry outing against the Sri Lankan all-rounder in the Tests. Can Chahal make Mathews his second Maxwell?

To Mathew’s credit, he did not get out to Chahal even once in the previous series. He is a good player of spin, and if he gets going, Sri Lanka will find themselves in favourable situation.