Virat Kohli will return to Dambulla -- the venue where he made his One Day International debut nine years ago -- when India take on Sri Lanka in the first of the five-match ODI series, on Sunday, August 20. This time, the 28-year-old will be leading the Indian cricket team, which seems to have already set its focus on the 2019 Cricket World Cup.
The national selectors have made it clear they are looking ahead by dropping veteran campaigners Yuvraj Singh and Suresh Raina after the all-rounders failed fitness tests.
Senior stars, including R Ashwin, Ravindra Jadeja, Mohammed Shami and Umesh Yadav have been rested and thus Kohli will be leading a relatively younger side in the island nation.
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Will MS Dhoni impress?
The focus will be on MS Dhoni as well, as the former captain is under pressure to repay the faith the selectors have shown in him. Chief selector MSK Prasad had earlier revealed that the 36-year-old will be in contention for the 2019 World Cup only if he performs consistently.
Dhoni will be under scrutiny right from the Sri Lanka series and it will be interesting to see how the World Cup-winning captain responds to the situation. On the other hand, the veteran's on-field inputs to captain Kohli will be crucial to the team's chances.
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Problem of plenty in the middle order
Ravi Shastri, who will be in-charge of the ODI team for the first time as full-time coach, has a lot of work to do when it comes to deciding on the playing XI.
In-form Shikhar Dhawan and recently-appointed vice-captain Rohit Sharma will definitely start as openers on Sunday in Dambulla. KL Rahul is reportedly the favourite for the No. 4 spot, which means both Ajinkya Rahane and Manish Pandey will have to wait longer for their chances.
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Pandey, who missed the Champions Trophy campaign with an injury he suffered during the Indian Premier League 2017, has brought himself back in contention after leading India A to a tri-series win in South Africa. The skipper top-scored with 307 runs in five games, including an unbeaten 93 in the final.
Kedar Jadhav and Dhoni will form the core of the middle order and all-rounder Hardik Pandya's form is a major boost to India's batting in the absence of Jadeja and Ashwin.
While Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Jasprit Bumrah are sure to start as two full-time pacers in the playing XI on Sunday, India will have to pick two spinners from the three -- Kuldeep Yadav, Axar Patel, Yuzvendra Chahal -- who are part of the 15-man squad.
On the other hand, Sri Lanka will be looking to get back to winning ways, especially after their crushing series defeat to minnows Zimbabwe at home last month. Upul Tharanga, who had a woeful time during the hosts' 3-0 defeat to India in Tests, will be in charge of the team for the first time.
Sri Lanka though will be expected to come up with a better challenge in the limited-overs format, given the availability of veteran pacer Lasith Malinga and big-hitting all-rounder Thisara Perera.
The hosts will also be focussing on earning a direct qualification for the 2019 World Cup as the eighth-ranked ODI team needs two wins in the upcoming series to avoid featuring in the qualifying campaign.
Check out the squads here
India: Virat Kohli (c), Shikhar Dhawan, Rohit Sharma, KL Rahul, Manish Pandey, Ajinkya Rahane, Kedar Jadhav, MS Dhoni (wk), Hardik Pandya, Axar Patel, Kuldeep Yadav, Yuzvendra Chahal, Jasprit Bumrah, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Shardul Thakur.
Sri Lanka: Upul Tharanga (c), Angelo Mathews, Niroshan Dickwella (wk), Danushka Gunathilaka, Kusal Mendis, Chamara Kapugedera, Milinda Siriwardana, Malinda Pushpakumara, Akila Dananjaya, Lakshan Sandakan, Thisara Perera, Wanindu Hasaranga, Lasith Malinga, Dushmantha Chameera, Vishwa Fernando.