Wins, wins and more wins – that is all India have been doing ever since setting foot in Sri Lanka a month and a half back. Disappointments have been piling on for Sri Lanka and their fans, who endured a 3-nil whitewash in the Test series followed by a 5-0 drubbing in the ODIs, their worst show at home in a bilateral series. But it isn’t over yet, there is still one game to go – the one-off Twenty20 International – and Sri Lanka will be hoping they can salvage some pride through the shortest format. It is easier said than done though as India have been one tough nut to crack and they will be coming out all guns blazing in their attempt to polish off the entire plate.
The T20I numbers for the two teams since January 2016 have contrast written all over. While India have won 17 of the 25 matches they have played in the said period, with one no result, Sri Lanka have lost 16 of the 24 matches. These include losses in the Asia Cup T20 that was held early last year along with their below-par display in the World T20 2016, in which their only win came against Afghanistan. Sri Lanka also went on to lose the two T20Is at home against Australia, wrapping up a disappointing 2016 in the 20-over format. However, things improved for Sri Lanka after that as they registered series victories against South Africa and Australia at the start of 2017.
For India, it has gone quite smoothly in T20Is in the last two years, although they failed to go the full distance in the World T20, suffering a semi-final exit at the hands of West Indies. Windies have been a bogey team for India in recent years as they also lost to the Caribbean side in the two-match T20I series in August 2016 and the one-off T20I a couple of months back. Apart from that, India have been on the mark and have the second most number of wins in T20Is since January 2016 after Afghanistan, although the rankings do not reflect that. Ranked No. 5, they are placed one spot below West Indies and a win against Sri Lanka would help India narrow the gap with the Caribbean side to one point.
The game on Wednesday would also give an insight on what kind of batting line-up India are looking at in the T20 format. In their last game against West Indies in July 2017, Virat Kohli had opened the innings, having played that role for Royal Challengers Bangalore in the IPL too. However, several opening options are available and it remains to be seen if Kohli switches to his regular No. 3 role.
Rahul has mostly played as an opener for India in his seven-match T20I career. But with the team management trialling him in the middle order in ODIs and also with the presence of Rohit Sharma and the option of Ajinkya Rahane, the Karnataka batsman could come down the order. The bowling unit is pretty much straight forward with Jasprit Bumrah and Bhuvneshwar Kumar likely to man the pace department along with Hardik Pandya and two spin options among Kuldeep Yadav, Yuzvendra Chahal and Axar Patel, unless India decide to go in with all three spinners.
The home team’s T20I squad had as many as six changes to the one that was named for the final ODI. Isuru Udana, Seekkuge Prasanna, Suranga Lakmal, Vikum Sanjaya, Jeffrey Vandersay and Dasun Shanaka were roped in for the T20I and few of them could feature in the eleven. Among these players, Prasanna and Sanjaya had played in the T20I series against Bangladesh in April. The batting order would be unlike what Sri Lanka had in that series with Kusal Perera, Chamara Kapugedera and Asela Gunaratne not part of the team. India will also be up against a slightly different bowling attack than the ODIs with Prasanna, Lakmal and Shanaka being some of the options that Sri Lanka could employ.
When: Sri Lanka vs India, one-off T20I -7:00 PMLocal Time
Where: R.Premadasa Stadium, Colombo
What to expect: The teams couldn’t practice on Tuesday as it was raining all day in Colombo and more rain is expected on the day of the match.
India:In the absence of Shikhar Dhawan, who is back home to be with his ailing mother, India will be pondering different options for the opening position. With the pitch under the covers an entire day, India’s bowling combination is something that might be decided just before the game after having a look at the wicket.
Probable XI: Virat Kohli (c), Rohit Sharma, KL Rahul, Manish Pandey, Kedar Jadhav, MS Dhoni (wk), Hardik Pandya, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Kuldeep Yadav/Axar Patel, Yuzvendra Chahal, Jasprit Bumrah
Sri Lanka: While the home team’s top order is likely to be similar to the ODIs, Prasanna and Shanaka’s all-round abilities come as a plus for Sri Lanka.
Probable XI: Dilshan Munaweera, Niroshan Dickwella (wk), Upul Tharanga (c), Angelo Mathews, Seekkuge Prasanna, Milinda Siriwardana, Dasun Shanaka, Thisara Perera, Suranga Lakmal, Lasith Malinga, Akila Dananjaya/Jeffrey Vandersay
– India haven’t lost a single T20I to Sri Lanka while playing in the latter’s home. These two teams have faced each other only twice in Sri Lanka with their last game in the Island Nation dating as far back as August 7, 2012.
– Jasprit Bumrah needs two more wickets to overtake Ashish Nehra as the second highest wicket-taker for India in the format. He has taken 33 wickets so far. R Ashwin is the highest wicket-taker with 52 wickets.
– Virat Kohli is set to become the fifth Indian player to represent the country in 50 T20Is. MS Dhoni (77) has played the most number of T20Is for India, followed by Suresh Raina (65), Rohit Sharma (62) and Yuvraj Singh (58).
What they said:
“When we are playing white ball cricket we should have eight or nine guys who can bat. We need to have a couple of all-rounders. Little support from the tail. Moving forward that will be a vital thing. We need the tail to fire and that didn’t happen in this series. We will need all-rounders moving forward,” Upul Tharanga, Sri Lanka’s skipper, wants solid contributions from the lower order.
“He has been our most effective short-format bowler in the last 18 months. He has really worked on his bowling a lot, especially his length ball has picked up more pace. That’s very heartening to see because it never lets the batsmen get settled. It’s not only about yorkers and slower balls any more,” Virat Kohli, the India captain, is lavish in his praise of Jasprit Bumrah.