Australia's commanding one-day international form on home soil will make them the outstanding favourites to claim the Commonwealth Bank Series Tri-nation cricket tournament which begins in Melbourne today with a game between the hosts and India.
"We're the No.1 one-day team in the world so I'd like to think that we're favourites," Australian captain Michael Clarke said yesterday.
However, Clarke admitted the two sub-continent teams, India and Sri Lanka can provide a shock despite playing in alien conditions out of their comfort zone.
"But in saying that we have to be at our best. We have to play at our best to beat both these teams. They were both in the final of our most recent World Cup. We know the conditions very well in Australia and I'm confident if we play our best cricket we can win this series," added Clarke.
World Champions India are currently ranked second in the ICC world rankings while Sri Lanka who lost to India in last year’s world cup final are in the fourth place.
India interestingly clinched the Tri series when the same three teams met last in Australia in 2007-2008, by winning the three-match final 2-0.
Several of that successful Indian team have returned to Australia but the form of both teams have taken a complete turnaround.
Australia have lost just three of their past 23 one-day matches at home while the struggle of Indian batsmen on fast and bouncy wickets of Australia was clearly evident in the 4-0 thrashing they received in the preceding Test series.
Sri Lanka which has undergone a complete change in their outlook after a recent slump following last year’s magnificent world cup are likely to offer a rejuvenated challenge under a new captain Mahela Jayawardene who is guided by the new coach Graham Ford.
Though the reins have changed hands, Sri Lanka are on a roll, having performed magnificently in the last two ODI’s just two weeks ago against South Africa when they chased 300 plus scores successfully.
Skipper Jayawardene said yesterday that the South African performance has given the team a load of confidence ahead of the Australian challenge.
''We showed a lot of character to get back into the series. If that third ODI wasn't affected by rain I'm sure we would have had a great chance, as they were five-down for 147 [chasing 267 when the rain first hit]. The guys showed a lot of potential and we finished it off really well, chasing two 300-plus scores comfortably,'' he said.
''We just need to find that killer instinct that has always been our trademark - [that] we go after everything and don't give up''
Statistically, however Australia are much ahead of the Sri Lankans. Australia have won 50 out of 77 ODI matches against Sri Lanka. Australia’s record outside the subcontinent is even more compelling which reads 33 wins out of 43 matches against Sri Lanka. But Sri Lanka have won two of the last three meetings and Sri Lanka’s young blood have the ability to create the difference between the two teams.
Jayawardene stressed this factor yesterday when he emphasized that Sri Lanka are keen to develop the youngsters and look forward to the future.
''I don't think we've been playing bad cricket, we just haven't been consistent,'' he said. ''Trying to get that consistency and building a young team for the next World Cup, is a priority - and [grooming] another leader as well' said Jayawardene.'
The skipper also stressed that he would be in charge only for a limited period till Sri Lanka passed through the current turbulent period.''Probably the easiest thing for me to do would be to walk away from that challenge, but I felt it was a responsibility I had to take right now, and do what I can to get the team back on track,'' he said.
Jayawardene also confirmed that all rounder Angelo Mathews is being groomed to be the next captain of Sri Lanka.
''Yeah [he is]. 'Angie' is somebody we probably identified a long time ago. He was a Sri Lanka under-19 captain and had a great start to his career. Injuries in the past year-and-a-half have probably pulled him back a bit, but he's coming back strongly,'' Jayawardene said. ''Playing for a longer period [as vice-captain] will give him the confidence for leading Sri Lanka in the future.''
Teams for today’s match Australia: Michael Clarke (c), Daniel Christian, Xavier Doherty, Peter Forrest, Ryan Harris, David Hussey, Mike Hussey, Brett Lee, Mitchell Marsh, Clint McKay, Ricky Ponting, Mitchell Starc, Matthew Wade, David Warner
India: MS Dhoni (c), Virender Sehwag, Gautam Gambhir, Sachin Tendulkar, Suresh Raina, Virat Kohli, Rohit Sharma, Ravindra Jadeja, Manoj Tiwary, Parthiv Patel, Zaheer Khan, Umesh Yadav, Irfan Pathan, R Vinay Kumar, Praveen Kumar, Rahul Sharma, Ravichandran Ashwin
Clarke says that they are confident of winning the tri-series.