Following a 2-1 series triumph over Sri Lanka in T20Is, the Men in Blue will play a three-match ODI series beginning on January 10. After a dismal 2-1 loss to Bangladesh in their most recent ODI, India will be looking to make a statement.
Given that Sri Lanka is no pushover in this format and defeated Australia in an ODI series last year, it will be a terrific test for the side. Meanwhile, numerous veteran players will return to the Indian team after being excluded from the T20 squad for a variety of reasons. The series will be crucial for India as they attempt to finalise their starting XI with only a few months until the World Cup at home.
On that topic, here is India’s best ODI starting XI for the series against Sri Lanka.
Number 1. Rohit Sharma (Captain)
Rohit Sharma, the Indian captain, is set to return to the ODI series after missing a month due to a thumb injury. Despite a rough 2022 with the bat, lacking consistency and only scoring 249 runs in 8 ODIs, he remains a top-performing batter. With a career average of 48.73 and a strike rate of 90, it’s only a matter of time before he rediscovers his form. The absence of regular ODIs may have contributed to his underwhelming performance last year, but with many 50-over games ahead, fans can expect the skipper to get back on track.
Number 2. Shubman Gill
Shubman Gill will face stiff competition from Ishan Kishan for the second opening position, however, he is expected to be chosen despite Kishan’s double hundred against Bangladesh. Gill had a breakthrough year in the ODI format in 2022 and demonstrated why he is highly regarded in the cricketing world. He amassed 638 runs in 12 innings with an average of 70 and a strike rate of over 100, including one century and four half-centuries. Additionally, he had three scores in the 40s, displaying his reliability.
The young cricketer excels at playing both fast and spin bowlers and his capability to accelerate against spin is a huge asset. Recently, Rohit and Kohli have had difficulty scoring quickly against spinners, but Gill can make up for it with his skills.
Number 3. Virat Kohli
Similar to Rohit Sharma, Virat Kohli had a lacklustre ODI performance last year, averaging only 27.45 in 11 innings. The cause of these poor numbers can be attributed to a lack of consistent playing time, as ODIs were scattered amidst a year dominated by T20Is.
However, Kohli improved in the latter half of the year and produced runs in the Asia Cup and T20 World Cup. He even hit a century against Bangladesh in the 3rd ODI and has the potential to continue this streak in the upcoming series.
ODIs have been one of Kohli’s strongest formats in his career, and his 12454 runs at an average above 57 is a testament to this. The veteran batter will face a challenge against Sri Lanka’s skilled spin attack, making for an intriguing match.
Number 4. Shreyas Iyer
Last year, Shreyas Iyer was in fantastic form, scoring 724 runs in 15 innings with a strike rate of 91.52, including a century against a formidable South African attack. The Mumbai batsman also hit six half-centuries.
He scored a brilliant 82(102) on a difficult pitch in the just-finished series against Bangladesh, giving the squad a glimmer of hope when they were reeling at 65/4. It was not his first time stepping up under pressure, and he has played a number of ODI knocks like that recently.
With nine One-Day Internationals scheduled over the next few months, Iyer won’t have a better chance to solidify his place in the XI. A series versus one of his favourite international opponents will be an excellent way to begin the series of games.
Number 5. KL Rahul (Wicket-Keeper)
KL Rahul, similar to Kohli and Rohit, is a seasoned hitter in the Indian cricket team. His performance over the past year mirrored theirs, yielding 251 runs in 9 innings.
Rahul has a tendency to be overly cautious at the beginning of innings. He played a few strong innings in the middle order, notably scoring 73 (70) in the first ODI against Bangladesh. He single-handedly propelled India to a score of 186 when the rest of the team was struggling to reach 30.
The LSG captain has a successful record in the middle order and will be expected to deliver. He is under significant pressure to perform, as the fact that he is no longer the vice-captain indicates that he is no longer untouchable.
Number 6. Hardik Pandya
Hardik Pandya’s outstanding performance in T20s has benefited him in the ODI format, as he was appointed as India’s vice-captain in the ODI team. This series will be his return to the ODI squad after a 6-month break, as he was given rest for other games for workload management purposes.
Pandya made his impact felt in the series against England, where he scored 100 runs in two innings and claimed 6 wickets. He was particularly impressive in the decisive match, taking 4 wickets and scoring 71 in just 55 balls, helping India secure the win.
Pandya brings balance to the team and his improved bowling skills mean that India can even play three spin bowlers if the pitch is expected to be spinning. The 29-year-old is entering the series with high confidence, as he recently led India to a series win against the same opposition in the T20Is.
Number 7. Axar Patel
Axar Patel has been performing well for India in Ravindra Jadeja’s absence, causing the management to face a tough selection decision when Jadeja returns. Patel is known for his impressive bowling in Asian conditions, but lately, it’s his batting that has garnered attention. He had a strong showing in the T20s against Sri Lanka, scoring over 100 runs, and also hit two half-centuries in the ODIs, including a memorable 64* (35) in a tight game in the West Indies in July.
Patel’s economical bowling, with a 2022 average of 4.39, solidifies his position as one of India’s top spin bowlers. He hopes to maintain his form in the upcoming ODIs.
Number 8. Washington Sundar
The team management faces a challenging task in selecting the second spinner, as they must weigh between batting depth and leg spin. This decision is made more difficult as Chahal and Kuldeep Yadav have not been consistently strong in the shorter formats.
Washington Sundar has also improved his batting in limited-overs games, with an ODI average of 35, showcasing his power-hitting abilities and partnership-building skills with the lower order. In a crucial game against New Zealand, he even scored his maiden ODI fifty.
The off-spinner was also effective with the ball, taking 13 wickets at an average of 20.30 and conceding less than 4.5 runs per over last year. This series presents another opportunity for Sundar to establish himself as India’s first-choice off-spinner in white-ball games.
Number 9. Jasprit Bumrah
Jasprit Bumrah has only played in two games in the past six months due to injury, causing him to miss important events such as the T20 World Cup and Asia Cup. However, he will make his return in the upcoming ODIs against Sri Lanka before a busy home season.
Bumrah is considered one of the best bowlers in the world and proved it by taking 13 wickets in just 5 ODIs last year, including a six-for against England where he was dominant with the new ball and bowled the host team out for 110 runs.
There will be close attention to his physical condition and performance after a lengthy lay-off, but Sri Lanka’s struggles against pace bowlers and the three venues, which generally support pace bowling, provide Bumrah with the ideal stage for his comeback.
Number 10. Mohammed Siraj
Mohammed Siraj was India’s leading wicket-taker in the format last year, finding his rhythm after a disappointing IPL performance. He regained his effectiveness with the new ball and improved his death-overs bowling, executing yorkers with precision.
He played in 15 games, taking 24 wickets at an average of 23 and an economy rate of 4.62. Siraj claimed wickets in all games except two, indicating a growth in consistency, which has previously been a challenge for him.
Due to the absence of Bumrah and Shami, Siraj was tasked with bowling with the new ball in those games, but with the return of the senior bowlers, he may face increased pressure. In this team lineup, his ability to reverse swing the ball will be relied on more heavily than his new-ball skills.
Number 11. Mohammed Shami
Bumrah isn’t the only senior fast bowler making a comeback from injury, as Mohammed Shami has been sidelined for two months and missed the entire Bangladesh tour. He was in top form during the T20 World Cup and excelled in a new role as a middle-overs enforcer, demonstrating his growth as a white-ball bowler.
In England last year, Shami played only three 50-over games and took four wickets. The seasoned pacer caused trouble for the batters with the new ball and formed a strong partnership with Bumrah.
It’s unlikely to occur in this series, as India will probably go with three specialist pacers given the conditions. However, in the future, the team might opt for a third spinner, leaving only one spot open for Shami or Siraj. This three-match series could be crucial in determining their pecking order.