The Indian cricket team is set to take on Sri Lanka in a three-match T20I series, starting January 5. The Virat Kohli-led team is going into the T20Is against Sri Lanka as the overwhelming favourites. India have the desired experience to attack the Lankans, who will need to be at their best in the series with the first match to be held in Guwahati.
The ICC World T20 is set to be held this year in Australia and whatever matches in this format comes in the way, teams will be trying to make the opportunity count. To get the desired balance, try out combinations and get on a roll is what teams will be trying to achieve. After a strong end to 2019, India will need to better themselves in T20Is this year.
Post the ICC World Cup 2019, India beat West Indies in August and then in December. The side also thwarted Bangladesh to win 2-1, besides drawing the series against South Africa. Now there is a chance to win another T20I series ahead of an important tour of New Zealand, where the two teams will play five T20Is to start with this month.
For Sri Lanka, the 3-0 series win against Pakistan was a delightful affair, however, against Australia they were pummelled 3-0 and the gaps were highlighted. Ahead of the win against Pakistan, they were beaten by New Zealand as well. The reading for Lanka in T20Is doesn’t look good.
Under Lasith Malinga’s captaincy, Lanka will not want to achieve a similar show. The visitors have got a couple of experienced players in their squad, but a majority of the squad is young. One expects them to play fearless cricket.
Ahead of the T20Is, we look at the players that can have key influence.
Dhawan needs to get into the groove starting with the T20Is
India’s senior opener Shikhar Dhawan, who had suffered a knee injury during the Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy, will be aiming to make things count in this series. The southpaw returns to the scenes after Rohit Sharma was handed a rest. This will be a big moment for Dhawan, who hasn’t had a great run in T20Is in recent times.
Moreover, KL Rahul, who got the chance to come in place of Dhawan when the latter was injured, performed well in both T20Is and ODIs. Against West Indies, the right-handed batsman was on fire and showed his mettle. If Dhawan doesn’t get the desired runs, then he could be dropped to the bench in the upcoming series against Australia and New Zealand.
Dhawan needs to score runs and play without pressure. He will hope to get his confidence back. It’s an interesting phase for the left-handed batsman against an interesting Lankan attack.
Bumrah’s presence a major boost for Team India
Jasprit Bumrah has made a timely return to the side after being out with a back injury for more than four months. Bumrah did not need surgery and the prime fast bowler has made an earlier-than-expected recovery. On Friday, he was seen bowling with a lot of ease as he rattled the wickets. It’s a pivotal time for Bumrah, who was included in the squads for the T20Is against Sri Lanka and the upcoming ODIs against Australia.
His presence is a major boost for the Indian side. The Gujarat pacer adds so much of dimension both with the new ball and at the death. He brings a certain sense of aura and calmness in this attack. Bumrah will need to settle in and lead this attack which has lost Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Deepak Chahar to injuries. Mohammed Shami has also been rested.
He will have to guide the likes of Navdeep Saini and Shardul Thakur.
Can Rishabh Pant continue his recent flourish?
Recently, Team India head coach Ravi Shastri was thinking of sending Rishabh Pant back to domestic cricket in order to help him work on his game after a consistent set of failures in limited-overs cricket. However, Pant got into the act with scores of 71 and 39 in the recently-concluded ODI series against West Indies.
Those knocks helped him keep his place in the T20Is, where he has been dismal. With players like Sanju Samson waiting in the ranks, Pant can show his mettle by playing to the merit of the situation.
His conversion of confidence into the shortest format is something fans want to see. With the New Zealand tour coming up, Pant will hope to get into the groove and resurrect himself in T20Is.
Malinga and Perera can be the main force for Lanka in the T20Is
Sri Lanka will need to give a better account of themselves and nothing better than senior stars taking charge. Malinga, with all the experience he has in the format, will want to be amongst the wickets and keep his side in the hunt. The Lankan ace will relish bowling against the likes of Virat Kohli and Rahul, in particular.
He is the leader in T20Is in terms of wickets (106) and nobody knows how to set the tone better than him. He will need his bowlers to stand up and be as precise as they can.
Meanwhile, wicket-keeper batsman Kusal Perera will be crucial in terms of getting the runs in that top order. The 29-year-old has a strike-rate of 135.06 and has amassed 1,171 runs in 42 T20Is. He has two fifties against India in the format. If Lanka are to do well, then Perera needs to fire in all cylinders.