India v Sri Lanka
Start time: 08.00GMT
TV: live on Sky Sports 2
India have rested MS Dhoni for the first three ODI. Virat Kohli will lead and Ambati Rayudu, probably, will keep in his absence. The hosts are also without Mohammad Shami, weakening an already feeble bowling attack. Shami has taken more wickets than anyone in the world in the last 12 months. Dhawal Kulkarni takes his place.
Otherwise India will pick from pacemen Ishant Sharma, Varun Aaron and Umesh Yadav. Economical and tight in the field they are unlikely to be. A lot will depend on Ravi Ashwin and Ravi Jadeja holding up an end. There is no place yet for Rohit Sharma who returned from injury with a blistering century against the Sri Lankans in the warm-up.
Sri Lanka have made no secret that they are underprepared for this tour, stepping in at the last moment after West Indies walked out. Angelo Mathews, the captain, has complained about pretty much everything and they have had barely a net together since August. This showed in their 88-run defeat by India A. They have other problems.
Kumar Sangakkara is struggling with a back problem, meaning he might not keep wicket. This completely alters Sri Lanka's balance. Niroshan Dickwell is in line to take the gloves. It gets worse. There is no Lasith Malinga, Ajantha Mendis or Sachithara Senanayake. This equates to an average of five wickets per game in the last year.
Given the Sri Lanka players' apparent reluctance to take the tour and the absence of their frontline bowling attack against the best batting unit in the world, they're not give much hope. They are 2.915/8 with India 1.594/7 and the draw 5.95/1. https://www.betfair.com/exchange/cricket/market?id=1.116051890&exp=e
India are 1.635/8 and Sri Lanka 2.6413/8. On a good batting wicket we might consider India a decent bet but we cannot be confident about the surface at the Barabati Stadium.
On something flat, India's batting, which is statistically the best in the world, should put a weak Sri Lanka bowling attack to the sword. But perversely if there is help for the bowlers, this could represent Sri Lanka's best chance in the series.
They are going to need some assistance and if they can restrict India to something under 280 they would be bang in the game because of India's bowling line-up. Statistically they are the worst in the world.
There is nothing wrong with Sri Lanka's batting, you see. Sangakkara, Mathews, Mahela Jawaywardene and Tillakaratne Dilshan are all class acts.
It is also probable that Sri Lanka at the start of the series will be much keener and more professional. Sure, they are not keen on being there but they are not yet beaten. Their spirit will start to sap once they get down.
Read here how both sides cope without their talismen (Dhoni and Malinga). you might find the results rather surprising.
To finish, two stats which contradict each other: India have won their last four in Cuttack. They have lost four of their last five series openers at home.
There have been only four ODI played at Cuttack since 2007 so our study period is disconcertingly short. During that time the run rate has been 4.84, as opposed to 4.74 since the first ODI in 1982. More than 250 has been breached once in the four matches in the last seven years. The average is 227. List A matches in 2010 saw totals of 117-196-278-288-283. This is a ground which has a reputation for uneven bounce and there is little to hang your hat on a big runs bet. A shame because if there were stats to back it up, the weakened bowling attacks would have made it a great wager.
Top India runscorer
Captain Kohli, despite a dip in form, is still India's top bat over the last 12 months with 960 runs. Shikhar Dhawan is next best with 763. They are 3.39/4 and 4.67/2 respectively. Suresh Raina is 6.05/1.
Top Sri Lanka runscorer
Upul Tharanga (73), Dilshan (41) and Jayawardene (46) all looked comfortable on this ground in 2009 before a collapse which saw Sri Lanka bowled out for 239. They lost by seven wickets. Tharanga, who hit a half-century in the warm-up, is 5.59/2, which is big for an opener and he should probably be more like 5.04/1. Dilshan is 4.216/5 and Jayawardene 5.24/1. Sangakkara, the top batsman in the last year, is 3.8514/5. Mathews, second by fewer than 100 runs, is 6.05/1.
Back U Tharanga top Sri Lanka batsman at 5.59/2