Sri Lanka endured a torrid time in the Test series against India – redefining the term humiliation with three crushing losses – so they will hope for better luck in the ODI leg which begins on Sunday.
They are not given much hope, it has to be said. Betway Exchange has the touring team as short as -300. Marathon have Sri Lanka at +300. Can we make a case for an upset here?
Well, Sri Lanka are at least a better ODI team than they are Test side. They routinely perform better in the format. This is because they are an expressive bunch who only really know one way of playing: attack. In the Test game, you have to have more brains than brawn. Sri Lanka doesn't have the experience for the former yet.
The good news is that consistent and wily performers like Angelo Mathews, Lasith Malinga, and Thisara Perera are available. Upul Tharanga, who has seen it all, is skipper while Niroshan Dickwella and Kusal Mendis are terrific hitters at the top of the order.
You may also recall that Lanka’s frenetic batting caused a huge upset in the Champions Trophy in England this summer when they downed India. Set an improbable 322 to win, they won with eight balls to spare. In other words, a bit of a stroll.
India are not quite at full strength for this one. Yes, players of the caliber and repute of Virat Kohli, Rohit Sharma, MS Dhoni and Hardik Pandya are playing but they have decided to rest their most potent spin bowlers in Ravi Ashwin and Ravi Jadeja.
Kohli is a major worry for Lanka. He has scored almost twice as many runs as any of his team-mates in the last 12 months. So it is no surprise to see him installed as +600 favourite with Bet365 to be man of the match.
There might be a bit of value in Shikhar Dhawan on this market, though. He was the man who set up that monster total in England with a fine century. He is +900.
The relationship between scoring the most runs and winning the man of the match award is well known. It is weighted in history with cricket always valuing runs more than wickets, even if the latter is the most significant.
We will risk a wager on Sri Lanka for this one. And we may well find we continue to back them throughout.
There is no toss bias in Dambulla. Nor is there any adverse weather forecast. Both would have reduced the gulf between the teams. No matter. We don’t think Lanka are a +300 shot here and are happy to take on India, particularly if they suffer complacency.