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India start search for World Cup core with Sri Lanka ODIs

India start search for World Cup core with Sri Lanka ODIs

DAMBULLA: The Tests clinched without much of a strain, India will begin the journey to identify the core of their 2019 World Cup squad when they square off against a low-on-confidence Sri Lanka in a five-match ODI series, starting here on Sunday.

The visitors comfortably won the three-Test series 3-0 and will look to take that momentum into the limited-overs’ leg of the tour. However, India are not treating this as just another bilateral ODI series. Chief selector M.S.K. Prasad clearly outlined this, stressing on the aspect of fitness as India begin their preparations for the 2019 World Cup in England.

The Indian think-tank has made a lot of moves in this regard, and prima facie, the most important of them at present is the simple declaration that KL Rahul will bat at No.4 throughout this five-match contest.

Rahul has only played six ODIs thus far in his short injury-prone career, and in all of them, he has opened the innings.

If fit, Rahul would have surely been a part of the Champions Trophy squad, but with Yuvraj Singh playing that tournament in England, he would have probably opened the innings (or warmed the bench).

Rahul has been placed at No.4 because he cannot be left out of the playing eleven at present as pointed out by Prasad earlier this week, and not because he has prior experience playing ODIs in the middle order.

With M.S. Dhoni occupying No.5, and Hardik Pandya taking in the all-rounder role at No.7, both Manish Pandey and Kedhar Jadhav will be vying for No.6 spot.

For Sri Lanka, meanwhile, this series is more than just a matter of saving face after their heavy losses in the Test series.

The hosts need two more ODI wins to confirm their spot in the 2019 ODI World Cup by way of automatic qualification.

If they do manage this feat against India in the upcoming series, they will move to 90 points and then West Indies will not be able to overtake them even if they win all the six ODIs against Ireland and England (taking their points from 78 to 88 at best) before the Sept 30 deadline. New skipper Upul Tharanga will have his task cut out ahead of a major challenge.

Teams (from):

INDIA: Virat Kohli (captain), Shikhar Dhawan, Rohit Sharma, KL Rahul, Manish Pandey, Ajinkya Rahane, Kedar Jadhav, MS Dhoni (wicket-keeper), Hardik Pandya, Axar Patel, Kuldeep Yadav, Yuzvendra Chahal, Jasprit Bumrah, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Shardul Thakur.

SRI LANKA: Upul Tharanga (captain), Angelo Mathews, Niroshan Dickwella (wicket-keeper), Danushka Gunathilaka, Kusal Mendis, Chamara Kapugedera, Milinda Siriwardana, Malinda Pushpakumara, Akila Dananjaya, Lakshan Sandakan, Thisara Perera, Wanindu Hasaranga, Lasith Malinga, Dushmantha Chameera, Vishwa Fernando.

Published in Dawn, August 20th, 2017

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