If there is any impact that the second game of the ongoing five-match One-Day International (ODI) series between India and Sri Lanka would have had, it would be that of making bored fans sit up and take notice, at least for the third fixture.
The second ODI, which took place in Pallekele on Thursday, gave the one-day series a much-needed shot in the arm, with the dormant Sri Lankan side finally waking up to give the Virat Kohli-led Indian side some fight, after surrendering the entire Test series and the first one-dayer without giving much (or any) run for their money. Thanks to a spell from hell from Akila Dananjaya, who joined the squad barely a day after his marriage, Sri Lanka nearly defended a revised target of 231 in the 2nd ODI.
Despite the eventual three-wicket loss, thanks majorly to an unbeaten century stand between Mahendra Singh Dhoni and Bhuvneshwar Kumar, as well as the absence of a key player from the next couple of matches, the hosts will walk out to the Pallekele International Stadium on Sunday a more inspired side. What will aid their cause on the day will be the return of a couple of senior members to the team.
The third one-dayer will be the first-time Chamara Kapugedera leads the Sri Lankan side, after limited-overs leader Upul Tharanga was handed a two-match suspension for slow over rate in the previous match. While Kapugedera has the experience of leading an eleven in domestic cricket, the responsibility is a whole new ballgame altogether at the international level.
"It's a challenge for me. Every game is a challenge and I am ready for that challenge. As a team we discussed a lot of things. Whatever we spoke we need to put them into practice," said Kapugedera ahead of the third match, adding that he was "really happy to get this opportunity".
Dinesh Chandimal and Lahiru Thirimanne were earlier drafted into the Sri Lankan squad following the ban on Tharanga as well as the emergence of doubts over Danuskha Gunathilaka's fitness for the next game. Gunathilaka landed awkwardly on his right shoulder while fielding at point during the Dhoni-Bhuvneshwar partnership in the second one-dayer, with the niggle reportedly getting worse in the last couple of days.
Chandimal automatically takes Tharanga's spot in the batting order at No 4. Thirimanne, on the other hand, will likely replace Gunathilaka as Niroshan Dickwella's opening partner. The two seniors will aim to bring about some composure into the Sri Lankan top order, with the hosts prone to collapses as their performances so far in India's tour would indicate.
Dananjaya has become something of an overnight superstar after the sensational spell on Thursday, and will be a key weapon for stand-in skipper Kapugedera at the same venue as the second one-dayer. His description of his bowling credentials in the post-match press conference was about as mysterious as his deliveries on the day, as he described himself as an off-spinner whose key wicket-taking deliveries happened to be the leg-breaks and googlies.
Whether the Indian think tank have got any breakthrough in unravelling his mystery, as they did with Ajantha Mendis, is something that only their batsmen will be able to answer on Sunday. The visitors will, at any rate, take him a lot more cautiously.
Speaking of Indian batsmen, both skipper Kohli and fielding coach R Sridhar have insisted that their experimentation with the line-up is here to stay, as their preparations for the 2019 World Cup is already underway. The previous game saw Kedar Jadhav and KL Rahul, players who normally wouldn't have got as much exposure otherwise, walk out to bat ahead of Kohli, though the plan nearly derailed the visitors.
"We wanted give the other players a hit because Rahul hadn't batted in the middle in a one-day game so we wanted to give him that opportunity. It was just an experiment. (But) It won't stop," said Sridhar on Saturday.
Whether Kohli shuffles himself down the order for a second successive time, or chooses to play it safe and keep the tinkering for the remainder of the batting order, is something that remains to be seen. However, it seems likely that their experimentation will not extend to bringing the likes of Kuldeep Yadav, Manish Pandey and Shardul Thakur into the team, at least until the series has safely been netted. More so since all-rounder Hardik Pandya, who was struggling in the second game due to a calf niggle, has been cleared for selection for Sunday's game.
Sri Lanka: Chamara Kapugedara (c), Dinesh Chandimal, Lahiru Thirimanna, Angelo Mathews, Niroshan Dickwella (wk), Danushka Gunathilaka, Kusal Mendis, Milinda Siriwardana, Malinda Pushpakumara, Akila Dananjaya, Lakshan Sandakan, Thisara Perera, Wanindu Hasaranga, Lasith Malinga, Dushmantha Chameera, Vishwa Fernando, Upul Tharanga (for fifth ODI).
India: Virat Kohli (c), Shikhar Dhawan, Rohit Sharma, KL Rahul, Manish Pandey, Ajinkya Rahane, Kedar Jadhav, MS Dhoni (wk), Hardik Pandya, Axar Patel, Kuldeep Yadav, Yuzvendra Chahal, Jasprit Bumrah, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Shardul Thakur.
Time: 2.30 pm IST.