Dambulla: Batting line-up found wanting. Bowling attack looked out of sorts. To top that off, Sri Lankan cricket has continued to go from bad to worse as Virat Kohli’s men trounced the Islanders in the three-match Test series to register their first ever series clean sweep away from home; barely a month after Zimbabwe pulled the rug out from Angelo Mathews and co’s feet to win the ODI series in Sri Lanka.
While the captaincy and coaching have changed hands with Mathews deciding to relinquish the captaincy and Graham Ford pushed out post the ICC Champions Trophy, the Islanders are struggling to change their fortunes. More importantly though, their direct qualification for the 2019 ICC World Cup is at stake.
If the 1996 World Cup-winners want to get a direct entry, they must win at least two games out of the five ODIs. If they fail to do that, Sri Lanka, with 88 points against their name, will miss out on a direct entry in the 50-overs cricketing extravaganza in England, and West Indies will surpass them by decimal points to secure a direct entry.
While Sri Lanka will battle a lot of ifs and buts and permutations and combinations, India has their own share of problems. Unlike the hosts, however, theirs are problems of plenty with the likes of Manish Pandey, KL Rahul and Kedar Jadhav battling out for the two spots in the middle order. While Rahul is tipped to bat at number four, Pandey, following his tremendous form for India A in the tri-series in South Africa, has provided Kohli an option to choose from.
And despite all the chopping and changing, Sri Lanka can seek inspiration from their last ODI performance against India, where they defeated Kohli and co. in the ICC Champions Trophy.