When Sri Lanka take on India in the first match of the tri-series in Colombo on Tuesday, 6 March, they will kick off the second Nidahas Trophy.
The first edition of the tournament took place back in 1998. Featuring hosts Sri Lanka, India and New Zealand, it marked 50 years of independence of the island nation. This one, which has Bangladesh as the third team, is to celebrate the 70th year.
“This tournament will be a special and exciting tournament for all of us,” said Dinesh Chandimal, the home captain, on the eve of the opener. “India and Bangladesh have played really good cricket in the last couple of years, so it will be a challenge for us, but we have put in the hard work.”
Back in 1998, India won the final against then world champions Sri Lanka by six runs after Sachin Tendulkar and Sourav Ganguly put on a record 252 runs for the opening wicket.
“I was only 10 years old when this tournament happened for the first time. It gives me immense happiness to be part of it 20 years later as Indian team captain,” said Rohit Sharma. “Hopefully we can put up performances that people can enjoy.”
Rohit is leading a new-look side in the absence of regulars such as Virat Kohli, Mahendra Singh Dhoni and Hardik Pandya. He said it helped the youngsters waiting in the wings to get some match time in tournaments such as this so that when the time came for International Cricket Council (ICC) tournaments, “we don’t want to be taken by surprise”.
“The past few years since the 2015 World Cup, we’ve put up good performances home and away. It gives confidence to the team. [But] it’s good to know your bench strength,” he said. “We are lucky in that we have quality players waiting for an opportunity. They’ve been consistently performing in India A tours, domestic cricket and IPL, so it was the right time to blood these guys.”
For Mahmudullah, the Bangladesh skipper, the tournament is a chance for his team to step up after recent reversals at home. “It’s a good platform for us to make a statement,” he said. “We’ve been playing good cricket the last few years.”
Mahmudullah, like Rohit, is a stand-in captain, taking charge while Shakib Al Hasan is out injured. “We did miss him [Shakib] in the tri-series in Bangladesh [which Sri Lanka won]. But at the same time, it’s a great opportunity for the other guys to make a statement for themselves and the team,” he added.