Batting key in do-or-die encounter

India gears up to level the three-match Twenty20 International series 1-1 in Ranchi, after its stuttering batting in the first game allowed Sri Lanka to take the lead.

India's batting, which floundered in the first Twenty20 in Pune, will be expected to fare better on an easier track in Ranchi.   -  PTI

M. S. Dhoni has played two international matches in Ranchi so far in his 11-year old career.   -  AP

Since early on Wednesday, no private vehicles or taxis were allowed on the driveway leading to the departure lounge of the Birsa Munda Airport here. Reason: The city’s most favourite son Mahendra Singh Dhoni and his men along with the Sri Lankan counterparts were scheduled to land in the evening.

Given the modern-day security concerns, it is largely acceptable when the law-enforcing agencies go overboard. But when Dhoni, the virtual ‘Brand Ambassador’ of small-time heroes in the country, lands in the city, those manning law and order deem it more necessary than ever to make their presence felt in no uncertain measure.

This visit, unlike any other, could well turn out to be a momentous one for the locals. On Friday, when Dhoni turns out in the city's first T20 International, it could well be his last appearance for India at his home ground.

Looking to avenge the defeat suffered at Pune, India would also like their unbeaten run at the Jharkhand State Cricket Association Stadium to continue. A packed house of 40,000 spectators is set to back its ‘hero’ to play a decisive role in the much-anticipated series-levelling triumph.

Rare Dhoni appearance

Indeed, Dhoni, in his playing gear, is a rare sight in this part of the world. He has not played a single first-class match here for Jharkhand since making his international debut with a one-dayer in December 2004.

By sheer coincidence, the last time India played here was against Sri Lanka, in the fifth ODI in November, 2014. But Dhoni was not part of the team that scored 288 to win by three wickets.

Therefore, should Dhoni decide to end his international career – preferably on a winning note – after the upcoming World Twenty20, Friday’s match could well be recalled and remembered with a touch of nostalgia by the home fans.

Dhoni will also have in mind that the defeat in Pune, coupled with the loss in the 2014 World Twenty20 final, meant that for the first time, India have lost two successive T20 games to Sri Lanka. A victory will also stretch India’s unbeaten record here, having won ODIs against England and Sri Lanka.

Though trailing the World champion in the three-match series, India will still be the favourite on Friday. With the pitch expected to be devoid of grass and ‘spongy’ bounce – unlike the playing surface seen in Pune - Dhoni would expect the team’s batting might to settle the contest.

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