Having comprehensively beaten a full strength Sri Lanka at home last month, in-form India will hope for a cakewalk when they take on the injury-ravaged islanders in their opening match of the tri-series here on Tuesday.
India first beat Sri Lanka with consummate ease in the three-match Test series (2-0), and then compounded the visitors problem when they pocketed the five-ODI series 3-1.
And with the Lankans fielding a depleted side for the series, also involving hosts Bangladesh, a win in tomorrow’s match should not be a difficult task for the Indians.
Subsequently, barely a month after becoming the numero uno Test team, India would also be gunning for the top spot in ODIs as well with just Australia ahead of them.
If India keep a clean slate in the tri-series and Pakistan beat Australia comprehensively in the forthcoming five-ODI series Down Under, Mahendra Singh Dhoni and his men would dislodge the Aussies, who are just seven points ahead, from the top spot.
The Indians had a successful 2009 with four series wins, including two against Sri Lanka. However, they lost to Australia at home and crashed out in the group stage from the Champions Trophy in South Africa, and consistency is something Dhoni and his men would be looking for this year.
And before departing for the series, Dhoni and his deputy Virender Sehwag have already made it clear that they would be aiming for consistency in the 50-over format.
Batting has been India’s strong point in recent times and Sachin Tendulkar’s absence, who has opted out of the tournament, would hardly make any difference.
The return of Yuvraj Singh, who missed the last three ODIs against Sri Lanka, will also strengthen the already formidable Indian middle order, although it is not yet certain whether he will play tomorrow.
The stylish left-hander had a long batting session at the Sher-e-Bangla nets this morning under the watchful eyes of coach Gary Kirsten. He also rolled over his arm for a few balls to Rohit Sharma but did not stretch himself during the fielding session.
In Tendulkar’s absence, in-form Gautam Gambhir will partner Sehwag at the top and the dashing Delhi duo would be looking to provide a strong start to the Indian innings.
Sehwag, in particular, would be looking to do well in the tri-series as does not boast with a impressive record in Bangladesh so far in his career.
While India does not have much worry on the batting front, they certainly have issues with death bowling and fielding, and Dhoni would be hoping for a better show from his team in these two areas.
Indian fielding, particularly catching, has been horrible during the home series against Sri Lanka and the return of Yuvraj and Rohit will undoubtedly give Dhoni some reasons to smile.
Dhoni too has accepted that there were concerns in these two departments of the game and has obliquely hinted that the Cricket Board appoint seperate bowling and fielding coaches.
“We dropped quite a few catches in the series (against Sri Lanka). We will try to rectify that. Whatever good fielders we have we will try to make them the best in the world because it really helps, especially in the middle overs,” Dhoni had said.
The bowling department will also be strengthened by the return of pacer S Sreesanth, who has fully recovered from swine flu he suffered during the Sri Lanka series.
The temperamental Kerala pacer has done well in the Test series against the Lankans and he should be raring to go after recovering from the swine flu bout.
“We have struggled a bit in the death overs but if we can do something in patches, we can do it consistently as well. It’s slightly improving but I think we can manage it,” Dhoni said before his team departure for Bangladesh.
Dhoni will also have to be careful about slow over-rate, which led to his two ODI suspension during the Lanka series.
But one factor which could have a bearing on the match is dew, especially with cold wave and thick fog sweeping the Bangladesh capital at night. In these scenario, the side which wins toss is expected to bowl first as is seen in the series opener between Bangladesh and Sri Lanka.
Sri Lanka, meanwhile, would be relying heavily on their batting, especially Tillakaratne Dilshan, Upul Tharanga and captain Kumar Sangakkara to come good in the series in absence of Mahela Jayawardene, Sanath Jayasuriya, and Angelo Mathews.
With the Lankans fielding a second string side for the tournament, 20-year-old batsman Lahiru Thirimanne is expected to get his maiden international cap.
Sri Lanka’s inexperience is most pronounced in its bowling front with Nuwan Kulasekara being the most capped player with 60-odd ODIs. He will be sharing the new ball with rookie Chanaka Welegedara and Suranga Lakmal.
In the spin department, rookie offie Suraj Randiv and comeback man Malinga Bandara would lead the charge.
India: MS Dhoni (Captain), Virender Sehwag, Gautam Gambhir, Virat Kohli, Suresh Raina, Rohit Sharma, Ravindra Jadeja, Harbhajan Singh, Zaheer Khan, Ashish Nehra, Yuvraj Singh, Sudeep Tyagi, Dinesh Karthik, S Sreesanth, Ashok Dinda, Amit Mishra.
Sri Lanka: Kumar Sangakkara (Captain), Tillakaratne Dilshan, Upul Tharanga, Thilan Samaraweera, Chamara Silva, Thilina Kandamby, Lahiru Thirimanne, Muthumudalige Pushpakumara, Thissara Perera, Malinga Bandara, Nuwan Kulasekara, Thilan Thushara, Suraj Randiv, Suranga Lakmal, Chanaka Welegedara.
Field Umpires: Simon Taufel and Nadir Shah
Third Umpire/TV Umpire: Sharfuddoula Ibn Shahid
Fourth Umpire: Anisur Rahman
Match Refree: Andy Pycroft.