When India take on Sri Lanka in the ICC Champions Trophy, it will be their first meeting in more than 30 months. India vs Sri Lanka has been a regular fixture in the international calendar for several years, but surprisingly the two teams haven’t met in a one-day international since November 2014. Yes, it has really been that long.
India are playing some fabulous cricket at the moment and are threatening to unseat South Africa from the perch of the ICC rankings. India are ranked third in the ODI rankings – four points adrift of the table-toppers, while Sri Lanka are seventh.
Sri Lanka have been pathetic in recent times; they have talented players for sure, but the talent isn’t translating into performances on the field and producing the desired results.
Sri Lanka held the wood over India for just over a decade; remember Sanath Jayasuriya, Romesh Kaluwitharana and Aravinda de Silva destroying the Indian pacers in the mid-90s? Remember how Arjuna Ranatunga and Asanka Gurusinha irritated the Indian bowlers? That’s a long time ago.
From the start of 1996 until 2008, Sri Lanka competed extremely well against India. The two teams had a near 50 per cent win-loss record at that time.
But in the following years, India have dominated Sri Lanka, winning more than 65 per cent of the matches between the two teams.
Since 2009, India have a 28-13 win-loss record against Sri Lanka. That’s how poor Sri Lanka have been in recent times.
Virat Puts All Issues on the Back-burner
If one were to pick a individual in the Indian team who would be extremely relieved after the match against Pakistan, it has to be Virat Kohli. The last few months have been trying times for the Indian captain.
He has had to battle poor form, an injury and some unneeded controversies. However, he put all those issues on the back-burner with a fantastic unbeaten 81 in India’s tournament opener. In this contest, he will be up against his favourite opponent. In ODIs, Kohli has scored more runs against Sri Lanka than against any other team.
Sri Lanka will surely be wary of another big score from Virat Kohli. They will be aware that the last three times he batted against them in an ODI, he made scores of 139*, 66 and 53.
One expects there will be at least one change to the Indian XI that played against Pakistan. Ravichandran Ashwin will possibly make the XI at the expense of one of the pacers. The off-spinner from Tamil Nadu has impressive numbers in ODIs against Sri Lanka, and given the possibility of there being a couple of left-handers in the Sri Lankan line-up, one expects Virat Kohli and coach Anil Kumble will contemplate bringing in the off-spinner.
Also, the pitch at the Oval provides spinners with more assistance than the other two venues at which the matches of this tournament are being played.
The one player who will possibly dread a India vs Sri Lanka fixture is Lasith Malinga. The Sri Lankan pacer has pretty ordinary numbers against India – and one could attribute that to the familiarity of Indian players from playing against him repeatedly in the Indian Premier League.
The one number that best illustrates Malinga’s poor performance in ODIs against India is his strike-rate. While he picks up a wicket every 31 balls against the remaining eight Test playing teams, against India his strike-rate is more than seven overs.
The Sri Lankan pacer bleeds runs against India too. He concedes runs at nearly a run a ball against India, while against the other teams his economy rate is 5.18. Sri Lanka will hope Malinga can deliver a match-winning spell in this contest.
Musical Chairs for Sri Lankan Captain
Sri Lanka are also not competing as well as they can because of the frequent injuries to captain Angelo Mathews and forced changes at the helm. Mathews is a fantastic player, but his fragile body hasn’t been able to cope with the demands of international cricket, and he has missed more than a third of the 49 ODI matches Sri Lanka have played in the last 28 months.
Sri Lanka have had four different captains in the last 28 months, and the lack of continuity in leadership isn’t certainly helping the team’s cause.