Sports: 1st T20I: India aim to continue winning juggernaut against Sri Lanka (preview)

Lucknow, Feb 23 (IANS) India are yet to be beaten in T20Is in the new full-time captaincy era under Rohit Sharma. The hosts’, after wrapping a 3-0 win over West Indies in Kolkata, will be aiming to continue the winning juggernaut against Sri Lanka in the first T20I at Bharat Ratna Shri Atal Bihari Vajpayee Ekana Cricket Stadium on Thursday.

The series against Sri Lanka offers chance to players like Sanju Samson, Ruturaj Gaikwad, Shreyas Iyer, Ishan Kishan and Avesh Khan to present their skillsets ahead of the Men’s T20 World Cup in Australia later in the year.

Though Rishabh Pant, Virat Kohli, Suryakumar Yadav, Deepak Chahar and Shardul Thakur are unavailable, India will be hoping that the return of Jasprit Bumrah and Ravindra Jadeja will boost the experience in the hosts’ camp.

Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Harshal Patel sizzled against the West Indies, so as young leg-spinner Ravi Bishnoi. Venkatesh Iyer will be looking to continue his fine work of finishing matches at number six and giving some overs of part-time pace.

In terms of the batting, there have been different players who have stepped up to the challenge of bailing the team out of tough situations. But there’s a soft underbelly of the Indian batting which Sri Lanka will be looking to exploit: batting against the spinners. Against the West Indies, off-spin all-rounder Roston Chase was able to take out the Indian batters and stem the run-flow.

But the main point of concern is that Sri Lanka are without Wanindu Hasaranga as the leg-spin all-rounder hasn’t recovered yet from Covid-19 infection caught when the visitors’ were in Australia for a five-match T20I series. Mystery off-spinner Maheesh Theekshana is also a doubtful starter due to a hamstring niggle.

In the absence of Hasaranga and Theekshana, Sri Lanka might employ left-arm spinner Praveen Jayawickrama and leg-spinner Jefferey Vandersay to make the most out of the spin problem of the Indian batters. The pace department looks good with Dushmantha Chameera, Lahiru Kumara and Chamika Karunaratne.

What the Indian bowlers will be trying to exploit to the fullest will be the top-order struggles of Sri Lanka. Against Australia, Sri Lanka lost 4-1 and one of the big reasons for the losses was down to the top-order failing to fire. The top-order unable to go big in the start of the innings meant that Sri Lanka were unable to chase down or post a big total.

The only solace for Sri Lanka’s misfiring batting came in the last match when Kusal Mendis made an unbeaten 69 and was well-supported by Shanaka for a consolation five-wicket win. Top-order batting is something which Shanaka had mentioned about in the pre-series virtual press conference.

“Especially in our batting side. India got a very strong bowling line-up. So, I am looking forward for our batters in the top to get some fire. Whenever our top order gets among the runs, we got better chance of winning as the bowlers get a chance to defend. So, looking forward to that in the series.”

Overall, the series promises to be a clash between a team on a winning run and a side trying to discover their batting potential.


India: Rohit Sharma (captain), Ruturaj Gaikwad, Shreyas Iyer, Sanju Samson, Ishan Kishan (wicket-keeper), Venkatesh Iyer, Deepak Hooda, Ravindra Jadeja, Yuzvendra Chahal, Ravi Bishnoi, Kuldeep Yadav, Mohammed Siraj, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Harshal Patel, Jasprit Bumrah vice-captain) and Avesh Khan.

Sri Lanka: Dasun Shanaka (captain), Pathum Nissanka, Kusal Mendis, Charith Asalanka, Dinesh Chandimal, Danushka Gunathilaka, Kamil Mishara, Janith Liyanage, Chamika Karunaratne, Dushmantha Chameera, Lahiru Kumara, Binura Fernando, Shiran Fernando, Maheesh Theekshana, Jeffrey Vandersay, Praveen Jayawickrama and Ashian Daniel.

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