Hambantota, Jul 20: A look at this year's exchanges between India and Sri Lanka will point to the former as favourites for the five-match One Day International series starting here on Saturday. But home conditions tilt the scale slightly in favour of the Islanders.
This year alone, India and Sri Lanka have met five times (four in Australia and once in Bangladesh). MS Dhoni-led side were 3-1 in that with one ending in a tie.
Ind-SL tour schedule
For India, there is this huge chance of becoming the number one ODI side again. But it will take an herculean effort to climb up the ICC rankings ladder as they have to beat the Islanders 5-0.
Over the last four years, India and Sri Lanka have seen each other so many times on a cricket field that it has now become a regular affair.
The fans in both countries will be treated with the same action till August 4 with five skirmishes lined up. By this series is over, it will be nine meetings between the 2011 World Cup finalists. On this tour, there is also one Twenty20 International.
Mahinda Rajapaksa International Stadium, the newest addition to Sri Lanka cricket venues, will be hosting India for the first time. This stadium, built for 2011 World Cup, has not seen Indians in action. But on Saturday Dhoni and his boys will step on to the ground for the first time.
Mahela Jayawardene-captained Sri Lanka enter the series in a confident mood after clinching their previous ODI rubber 3-1 against Pakistan at home. They had also won the Test series that followed by 1-0 margin.
India, who had a break since the end of the Indian Premier League (IPL) on May 27, will be hoping to that this more than month's break doesn't have a negative effect.
Sometimes, players require more time to get back to match mode. However, for some a break like this is refreshing.
Dhoni has already said he wants to start assess the team in this series as they have a hectic season ahead.
India are their rivals will be focusing on the bigger prize that is on offer in two months' time in the same place. The ICC World Twenty20 2012 starts on September 18 in Sri Lanka and both teams will definitely be thinking of that.
Dhoni, however, did not think that far. He said: "What's important is to be in the present, which means take this series into account not to think too much ahead about the World Twenty20. A good thing is most of the players who are part of this side will also be part of the Twenty20 side. We don't really need to think ahead of time."
This series will also see the return of Virender Sehwag and Zaheer Khan. Both missed Asia Cup. Sachin Tendulkar, who reached the magical milestone of 100 international tons in Asia Cup, has opted out.
That means Sehwag and Gautam Gambhir will open the batting. In the batting department, Ajinkya Rahane has few more chances to prove his credentials at the international level.
Bowling will be led by Zaheer with Umesh Yadav, Ashok Dinda and Irfan Pathan for company.
Vice-captain Virat Kohli will once again be under the spotlight. In the last six months, he has emerged as one of the best ODI batsmen in world cricket. This tour will help him further grow as a batsman.
For the hosts, they will again depend on Jayawardene, Kumar Sangakkara, Tillakaratne Dilshan and Dinesh Chandimal to put the runs on the board.
Lasith Malinga is a major threat for Indian batsmen. Rangana Herath and Sachithra Senanayake will shoulder spin responsibilities.
All-rounders Angelo Mathews and Thisara Perera are capable of quick runs down the order.
Both teams will be looking for a winning start to the series on Saturday.
Sri Lanka hold edge playing at home but it should be an exciting contest over the next two weeks.
Teams (from): India: MS Dhoni (captain and wicketkeeper), Virat Kohli (vice-captain), Gautam Gambhir, Suresh Raina, Virender Sehwag, Rohit Sharma, Ravichandran Ashwin, Pragyan Ojha, Zaheer Khan, Umesh Yadav, Ashok Dinda, Irfan Pathan, Ajinkya Rahane, Manoj Tiwary, Rahul Sharma.
Sri Lanka: Mahela Jayawardene (captain), Angelo Mathews (vice-captain), Tillakaratne Dilshan, Kumar Sangakkara, Upul Tharanga, Dinesh Chandimal, Nuwan Kulasekara, Thisara Perera, Lahiru Thirimanne, Lasith Malinga, Chamara Kapugedara, Rangana Herath, Sachithra Senanayake, Jeevan Mendis, Isuru Udana.
Umpires: Bruce Oxenford (Australia) and local appointment
Third Umpire: Local appointment
Match Referee: Chris Broad
Match starts at 2.30PM IST. Catch live ball by ball commentary and regular updates on www.thatscricket.com