Tillakaratne Dilshan has been in good form off late, and will be in charge of getting Sri Lanka off to a good start © Getty Images
Tillakaratne Dilshan has been in good form off late, and will be in charge of getting Sri Lanka off to a good start © Getty Images

Sri Lanka will take on hosts India in the first of their five-match One-Day International (ODI) series at Cuttack on Sunday. Sri Lanka will be without the services of their stalwarts Lasith Malinga and Rangana Herath, but will still pose a tough challenge for India. Ayush Gupta takes a look at Sri Lanka’s possible XI for the first match.

Although the Lankan players claim that they are under-prepared, they come in fresh for the series having last played competitive cricket in late August when they won a home series against Pakistan.

Top Order: Tillakaratne Dilshan and Upul Tharanga have made an impressive opening duo for a while now. While Tharanga was in and out of the side recently, his knock against India A in the practice match could work in his favour. Dilshan is known to be an explosive starter, and could prove to be a handful for the Indian bowlers if he gets going. On the other hand, Tharanga is someone who can play a long innings. Kumar Sangakkara, whose record speaks for itself, ought to bat at No. 3 unless the Lankans decide to experiment.

Middle Order: The middle order should start with Mahela Jayawardene, whose experience of batting in India is something the younger players can learn a lot from. He will possibly be followed by skipper Angelo Mathews, who is a perfect fit for the fifth spot. Here is where the Sri Lankans could look to experiment. Wicketkeeper Niroshan Dickwella could make his ODI debut after it was hinted that Sangakkara might not be keeping wickets. If that happens, he will bat at No. 6 ahead of Seekuge Prasanna, while explosive all-rounder Thisara Perera can come in next. Perera is a dangerous striker, especially in the death overs, and could be the difference between a defendable total and a match-winning one.

Bowling Attack: All-rounder Ashan Priyanjan could fit into the No. 9 position. He will be handy with his off-spin. Nuwan Kulasekara and Dhammika Prasad could lead the way for the Sri Lankan pacers. Kulasekara is by now one of the senior members of the side, and while Dhammika is still fairly inexperienced in ODIs, he is a front-runner to be in the playing XI.

Sri Lanka likely XI vs India: Tillakaratne Dilshan, Upul Tharanga, Kumar Sangakkara, Mahela Jayawardene, Angelo Mathews (c), Niroshan Dickwella (wk), Seekuge Prasanna, Thisara Perera, Ashan Priyanjan, Nuwan Kulasekara, Dhammika Prasad.

Complete coverage of Sri Lanka tour of India 2014

(Ayush Gupta is a reporter at CricketCountry. A passionate supporter of Manchester United, he idolises Roger Federer)