Ind V SL, 1st T20I : Sri Lanka Seeks Turnaround Against New-Look India

December 20, 2017

After the 9-0 drubbing at the hands of the Indians earlier this year at home, many would have expected Sri Lanka to capitulate in a similar fashion when its tour started at the Eden Gardens in Kolkata. The visitor, though, has managed to put up a spirited show in both the Test and One-Day International series, giving the host a scare on more occasions than one, but having squandered opportunities at crucial junctures, find itself behind the eight ball yet again.

India, on the other hand, barring a couple of batting collapses on spicy decks, has been clinical throughout, a 1-0 scoreline in Tests and a 2-1 victory in the three-match ODI series bearing a strong testimony to that.

The focus now shifts to the three-match Twenty20 International series, the first of which will be staged at the Barabati Stadium in Cuttack on Wednesday (December 20) as the men from the Emerald Isle look to topple a new-look Indian outfit in a format where the host has been the least comfortable in.

Having ruled the roost in Tests and ODIs, it has been a relatively indifferent 2017 as far as the shortest format is concerned for India, winning six out of the ten matches this year. The host, however, has had the wood over Sri Lanka in T20Is, having won its last four encounters against it, and lead 7-4 on the head-to-head count.

With the gruelling South Africa tour set to start in a few weeks’ time, the Indian team management opted to rest some of their key members, giving a chance to fresh faces. Apart from Virat Kohli, who was rested from the ODI leg of the series as well, Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Shikhar Dhawan were also given a breather.

Jaydev Unadkat, who has played a solitary T20I for India against Zimbabwe last year, was called up alongside Basil Thampi, the Kerala speedster, Deepak Hooda, the hard-hitting Baroda batsman, and Washington Sundar, the Tamil Nadu allrounder.

Rohit Sharma, who had marshalled the troops effectively in the 50-overs format, will be in charge and will look to provide the impetus at the top of the order alongside KL Rahul. The batting department will more or less bear the same look as the ODI setup, with Shreyas Iyer, Manish Pandey, and Dinesh Karthik forming the crux of the middle-order, along with Mahendra Singh Dhoni and Hardik Pandya, who will play the finishing roles.

The bowling attack, however, will have a relatively new look, with Jasprit Bumrah leading the pace attack. Mohammed Siraj, who made his debut in the T20I series against New Zealand recently, will in all likelihood share the new ball with him, while Thampi, having made a name for himself with his searing yorkers in the Indian Premier League playing for Gujarat Lions, might also get a look-in at some stage.

With the fast bowling unit lacking experience, the onus will be on Yuzvendra Chahal, and Kuldeep Yadav to deliver the goods as they had in the final ODI at Visakhapatnam, picking up three wickets apiece to stage a dramatic Sri Lankan collapse.

Chahal, in particular, has been exemplary in the shortest format of the game. Having picked up 15 wickets in nine games so far in 2017, he needs just three scalps to go past Rashid Khan and Kesrick Williams (17 wickets each) and become the highest-wicket taker in T20Is this year.

Sri Lanka started the year with a bang registering emphatic 2-1 series victories in South Africa and Australia respectively, but its fortunes in T20Is have gone downhill rather fast. It drew the two-match series against Bangladesh at home in April, lost the only T20I against India at home, and was walloped 3-0 by Pakistan in UAE.

Upul Tharanga, with scores of 49, 7 and 95 in the ODI series, will once again shoulder the responsibility of setting up a good platform at the top. Sri Lanka will also be bolstered with the inclusion of Kusal Perera, who marks his return to the national squad for the first time since injuring his hamstring in the 2017 Champions Trophy against India.

Angelo Mathews, fresh from a century in the second ODI, will again be expected to play a critical role in the middle-order, while the visitors will desperately hope for Niroshan Dickwella and Thisara Perera, the skipper, to strike some form.

With Suranga Lakmal and Lasith Malinga rested for the T20Is, the bowling unit for Sri Lanka looks thin as well. Dushmantha Chameera, Nuwan Pradeep, and Vishwa Fernando, the uncapped left-arm quick, will form the pace battery, while Akila Dananjaya and Sachith Pathirana will take up the spin-bowling duties for the Islanders.

India will also be keen on changing their record at the Barabati stadium, where it was thrashed by South Africa in 2015 by six wickets after being rolled over for just 92 in the only T20I played at the venue.


India: Rohit Sharma (capt), KL Rahul, Shreyas Iyer, Manish Pandey, Dinesh Karthik, MS Dhoni (wk), Hardik Pandya, Washington Sundar, Yuzvendra Chahal, Kuldeep Yadav, Deepak Hooda, Jasprit Bumrah, Mohammed Siraj, Basil Thampi, Jaydev Unadkat.

Sri Lanka: Thisara Perera (capt), Upul Tharanga, Angelo Mathews, Kusal Perera, Danushka Gunathilaka, Niroshan Dickwella (wk), Asela Gunaratne, Sadeera Samarawickrama, Dasun Shanaka, Chaturanga de Silva, Sachith Pathirana, Akila Dananjaya, Dushmantha Chameera, Nuwan Pradeep, Vishwa Fernando.


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