India vs Sri Lanka: Dasun Shanaka, Wanindu Hasaranga and other Sri Lankan players to watch out for in upcoming one-dayers
An India-Sri Lanka bilateral cricketing series had become quite the common sight at one point in the previous decade, with the Men in Blue emerging winners more often than not. This was largely down to the gulf in quality due to their rapid surge in the world rankings that coincided with the Lankans’ steady decline post-2015.
The frequency in bilateral competitions between the neighbours, however, has been on the wane in the last three years with the BCCI increasingly focusing on tours to fellow ‘Big Three’ nations England and Australia.
The three-match T20I series between them in December 2019 which was won 2-0 by hosts India happens to be their only bilateral meeting since the start of 2018, with the two sides having also met in the 2018 Asia Cup and the 2019 ICC World Cup along the way. Let’s not forget the sizeable gap in the cricketing calendar caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, which had brought the cricketing calendar to a complete standstill last year.
Despite that, the India squad that features Shikhar Dhawan as captain and Rahul Dravid as coach should find little problem in adjusting to conditions that are largely similar to what they would contend with back home. Drawing plans for the opposition shouldn’t be a hassle either given several in the Sri Lankan camp are players they have faced, or in the case of the IPL, played alongside, in the past.
The current tour of Sri Lanka is set to kick off in a few days with the first ODI set to take place on 18 July, the date getting shifted by five days after multiple COVID-19 cases were detected in the hosts’ camp following their return from England. The second and third one-dayers take place on the 20 and 23 July respectively, followed by the T20I leg of the tour (25, 27 and 29 July).
Here we take a look at some of the players in the home team who could pose a threat to the Indian side, and could play a central role if the hosts are to notch up their first series win over the Indians in nine years:
With wicketkeeper-batsman Kusal Perera, who also happened to be one of the most reliable batsmen for the Sri Lankans, ruled out of the India series due to injury, the responsibility of leading from the front has fallen on the shoulders of Dasun Shanaka. The all-rounder, who expects the upcoming series to be evenly-contested given the Indian squad’s lack of international experience, twice top-scored for the Lankans while batting at No 7 in their recently-concluded tour of England.
Shanaka began the tour on a strong note, scoring 50 in the first T20I, which was then followed by a lean patch over the next three limited-overs games. However, he regained his form in the last two matches, scoring 47 followed by an unbeaten 48, chipping in with vital contributions in the latter half of the innings. Against the Indians, he will hope his right-arm medium-pace, which unfortunately didn’t fetch him a single wicket in England, comes good to add to his batting capabilities.
Udana could lay claim to being among the players in the current Sri Lanka side with the most knowledge of the young Indian squad that is composed of young rookies along with some senior players fighting for a spot in the T20 World Cup squad.
This is because of the all-rounder’s experience of playing 10 matches in the Indian Premier League (IPL) for the Virat Kohli-led Royal Challengers Bangalore last year. The experience of which would give him the advantage of knowing the strengths and weaknesses of some of the uncapped Indians who have been picked on the basis of the IPL performances, including RCB teammate Devdutt Padikkal as well as leg-spinner Yuzvendra Chahal.
The 33-year-old all-rounder, who bowls left-arm medium pace and is a handy option with the bat lower down the order, hasn’t quite had a blazing performance in the recent assignments against Bangladesh and England, but will hope to change that against Shikhar Dhawan and Co.
The recent tour of England might have been forgettable for the Sri Lankan team given they failed to win a single game throughout their month-long stay, and some of them ended up contracting COVID-19 on their way back home. There were a few bright spots though, including pacer Dushmantha Chameera finishing on top of the wicket-takers’ list in the T20I series.
The right-arm pacer collected six wickets with his average (11.66) and economy (6.26) suggesting he didn’t get dominated by the batsmen as often. He also had a solid run in the away assignment in Bangladesh, finishing as the leading wicket-taker in the one-day series with nine scalps to his credit (average: 11; economy: 3.78), which further suggests a lot will depend on him as far as the bowling unit is concerned if they are to keep the Indian batsmen on the backfoot.
Wanindu Hasaranga, a reliable option with both bat and ball for Sri Lanka in the white-ball formats, finished the leading wicket-taker in the inaugural edition of the Lanka Premier League (LPL) in November-December last year. The leg-spinner who floats between the 5-7 batting positions in the middle order, collected 17 wickets while also chipping in with 121 runs at a destructive strike rate of 160.75 for the Jaffna Stallions.
In recent international fixtures, he didn’t have the best of runs in the Bangladesh one-dayers and in the T20I leg of the England tour, but had a resurgence of form in the one-dayers against Eoin Morgan and company as he began the three-match series with a 65-ball 54.
The left-arm spinner got his international career off to a dream start when he ended up with a 10-wicket match haul (6/92 and 5/86) in the second Test against Bangladesh in Pallekele, starring in a series-clinching 209-run win.
Even though Jayawickrama hasn’t achieved much since then, getting all but one opportunity in the tour of England, the memory of that storied debut will be fresh in his mind and the added factor of playing against an inexperienced Indian side at home will further give him the confidence and could lead to another noteworthy performance or two, should the team management see fit to include him over some of the other spinners in the side.
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