Sri Lanka may have won three of their last five ODIs against Afghanistan, and even have an overall win-loss record of 7-4, but the two teams are completely different in this three-match series. -Progressing on different trajectories.
Afghanistan is being built. Their next major ODI tournament is just around the corner – the 2025 Champions Trophy. They have a side full of potential and energy that is just screaming to be harnessed and released. They left last year's ODI World Cup with wins over three former champions. This is not a party to be messed with.
Sri Lanka, on the other hand, is (once again) rebuilding. After failing to qualify for the 2025 Champions Trophy, their next major ODI tournament is still three years away – the 2027 World Cup. His side is with a settled squad but he needs to contend with the new selection committee to stamp his authority. And the less said about Sri Lanka's World Cup campaign the better.
But despite all that, this series should be as keenly contested as ever. Here are some things to keep an eye on when these sides collide with each other.
Sri Lanka have a chance to build bench strength?
In its first media briefing after the appointment, the new selection committee pointed out the importance of building bench strength. A look at this Sri Lankan team gives us an idea of what a best-of-the-best XI could look like, but could this be an ideal opportunity to take out the weaker players against quality opposition despite not having much on the line ?
With the T20 World Cup only four months away, it's unlikely we'll see much experimentation in that format, which leaves ODIs – with nothing to build on in the short term – for new faces to find their footing in international cricket. There is a direct option. And marginal players to stay sharp.
Will Avishka be able to make his place in the T-20 team?
If the recent Zimbabwe series is anything to go by, the selectors have given priority to Kusal Perera in T20Is and Avishka in ODIs. Avishka did herself no favors and scored 0, 4, 0 in her three innings.
This series provides him a chance to get himself back into the selectors' minds, if a spot opens up at the top of the order in the T20I team.
Hasaranga, Theekshana, Mujeeb, Noor – is spin important?
So, how well Afghanistan's batsmen cope with Sri Lanka's spin threats, and how Afghanistan's spinners take control of proceedings without their star player, could well decide the series.
Will the problem of power crisis be solved?
Despite their good performances in the World Cup, Afghanistan failed to go past the 300-run mark even once – they batted first four times. In a tournament where teams were scoring over 350 with regularity, this appears to be a serious shortcoming.
In fact, in its ODI history, Afghanistan has scored 300 or more only seven times. For a side that wasn't even a side until very recently, this makes sense, but if they want to start competing more regularly with more established sides, this is an area where they can definitely Need to get benefits.