As part of our 'Renault Duster Presents the Unstoppable Indians' special, we take a look some key contests to look out for during the five-match ODI series between Sri Lanka and India.
The Gambhir-Kohli jodi
Gautam Gambhir and Virat Kohli have, in a short span of time, become the third most successful partnership-makers for India versus Sri Lanka in ODI cricket. In 11 innings together, the Delhi pair has racked up 873 runs at an average of 79.36, with three century alliances and two fifty partnerships. Their record is better by Sourav Ganguly and Sachin Tendulkar (1128 runs in 26 innings) and Tendulkar and Virender Sehwag (881 runs in 23 innings).
The best that Gambhir and Kohli have come up with against Sri Lanka was in Kolkata in December 2009 when India were chasing 316. From 23 for 2, the pair put on 224 for the third wicket to seal victory. In March 2012, they added 205 for the second wicket to set India up for a match-winning total of 304 for 3.
With four more innings to go on tour, Gambhir and Kohli could easily go past Sehwag and Tendulkar.
Lasith Malinga v India's top order A bowling average of 56.00 against India in 2012 and the manner in which the batsmen have bossed him significantly negates any threat Lasith Malinga poses to the tourists. In five matches against India this year, Malinga blown hot and cold; while in three matches he successfully created early inroads, he has been expensive with an economy rate of 7.52.
In Sri Lanka’s final match against India during the CB Series, in Hobart in February, Malinga conceded 96 runs in 32 balls. His first three overs cost 28, and after taking Sachin Tendulkar’s wicket in the fourth he had a first spell of 4-0-43-1. After one over that cost 11, Malinga was brought back for a final spell that lasted 16 balls and cost 42 runs.
In the first ODI in Hambantota this series, that Malinga went wicketless while conceding 83 runs – 32 off his last two overs – is another reason to give Sri Lanka concerns.
Irfan Pathan v Sri Lanka’s left-handers
Irfan Pathan’s left-arm medium pace has accounted for 29 Sri Lankan wickets in 28 matches, at an impressive average of 29.17 including two four-wicket hauls. Of those 29 wickets, 20 have been left-hand batsman. Irfan has accounted for Kumar Sangakkara five times – the other Sri Lankan leftie he dismissed the same number of times was Sanath Jayasuriya – and Upul Tharanga three times.
With a natural ability to move the ball away from the left-handers, Irfan could add a few more Sri Lankan southpaws to his kitty considering the hosts have four in their line-up.
MS Dhoni versus Mahela Jayawardene
Both are experienced captains and vital figures in their respective teams. Though while Mahela Jayawardene has yet to lead Sri Lanka to a series victory on Indian soil, MS Dhoni has already captained India to two series wins in Sri Lanka – incidentally the only two in the country’s history.
Both have had been chalky in 2012. Jayawardene’s batting has been poorer than Dhoni’s this year, and he has only overseen one series win so far. In Australia he took Sri Lanka to the CB Series finals where they were beaten 2-1 and after that led Sri Lank to three defeats in the Asia Cup.
Dhoni has been in better form with the bat but has had to cop plenty of criticism. The aura of him being a cool leader has rapidly faded with India’s poor overseas outings and going into a new season, Dhoni needs to inspire India to a series win. If India win 5-0 they will become the No. 1 side in one-day cricket and that would be a huge lift for a team that has a very busy season ahead.