In a format best suited for the underdogs, Sri Lanka has a reasonable chance of going one up against an Indian line-up that looks less formidable.
When the action in the three-match T20 series begins at the Ekana Stadium on Thursday, the visiting team will be looking to exploit India’s weakened batting potential in the absence of Virat Kohli, Suryakumar Yadav and Rishabh Pant.
With Kohli and Pant rested, the non-availability of Yadav and Deepak Chahar due to injuries clearly places more responsibility on the batters.
For the Lankans, Wanindu Hasaranga failing the Covid test a second time this month is a big blow. Placed third in the ICC rankings for T20 bowlers, the leg-spinner tested positive on Wednesday, like on February 15, in Melbourne where he is in isolation.
Though Lankans surrendered the T20 series 4-1 to Australia, the triumph in the fifth match lifted their morale. Moreover, they are better players of spin than many of those who travelled to India in the past couple of seasons. The pitch here is known to offer a bit more bounce, something that should bring cheer to a variety of bowlers. The variety in the Lankan attack, too, is more suited to Indian wickets than the one seen from the West Indies recently.
Despite the Lankan top-order failing Down Under, skipper Dasun Shanaka
was optimistic of his leading batters coming good against India. In familiar conditions of the sub-continent, the Lankans hope to build on the confidence from the victory in Melbourne.
“Whenever the top order is among the runs, we have a better chance of
winning. India has strong bowling and we expect our top-order to fire to give our bowlers a chance to defend,” emphasised Shanaka on Wednesday. Expectedly, he maintained that India had suitable replacements for batters, thanks to the IPL.
On the other hand, India clearly looks short of options in batting. Yadav’s absence means Shreyas Iyer and Sanju Samson have every reason
to hope for a place in the playing XI. Rohit has to pick from the lot including Ruturaj Gaikwad, Ishan Kishan, besides all-rounders Venkatesh Iyer, Ravindra Jadeja and Deepak Hooda to address batting concerns. Among the bowlers, there is no dearth of options.
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With the ICC T20 World Cup not too far, India is on a lookout for explosive batters who find the highest gear without using up too many deliveries upfront. Shardul Thakur is one such variety but in his absence, Hooda could well provide the answer.
Unlike the days when a number of specialist batsmen - Sachin Tendulkar, Sourav Ganguly, Virender Sehwag to name a few - proved handy bowlers when needed, the current lot of batsmen do not offer similar luxury to the team management. For the selectors, the setback suffered in the ICC T20 World Cup last year when India struggled to find a sixth bowling option in the playing XI, is too fresh to forget.
For now, without going too far ahead of themselves, Rohit and coach Rahul Dravid will be looking for a winning combination to stop the Lankans.
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