Virat Kohli, Lasith Malinga to start 2020 with an eye on World T20

Jasprit Bumrah’s comeback is one of the major highlights of the three-match series. The pace ace was out of action for four months due to a back injury.

India captain Virat Kohli at a training session at the ACA stadium in Guwahati on Saturday.   -  RITU RAJ KONWAR


With 10 months to go for the ICC World T20, India and Sri Lanka will be eager for experiments and spot backups as they begin the New Year with the first of the three-match T20I series at the Assam Cricket Association Stadium, Barsapara, here on Sunday.

“As the tournament is in Australia, you will need these many options and backups ready to be able to take firstly your strongest 11 and then have those backups. It's good that we identify five or six guys and it will be on priority, who goes (first) and then the backups.

“Also, with fast bowlers small niggles can happen. We're pretty sorted in that regard, not worried at all,” said India captain Virat Kohli on Saturday.

By resting opener Rohit Sharma and speedster Mohammed Shami, India has given others opportunities.

Jasprit Bumrah’s comeback is one of the major highlights of the series. The pace ace was out of action for four months due to a back injury.

READ| Malinga keen to make most of Bumrah's rustiness

Bumrah’s combination with other pacers, including Shardul Thakur, Navdeep Saini and all-rounder Shivam Dube, will be interesting to note.

Jasprit Bumrah and Kohli.   -  Ritu Raj Konwar


Rohit’s absence poses a scenario where one can witness K.L. Rahul and Shikhar Dhawan — who recently got a fine hundred in Ranji Trophy — as the opening pair.

Sanju Samson, who played the only T20I for the country in 2015, will be a back-up opener and the second-choice wicketkeeper.

For Rishabh Pant, the low-profile series will be an occasion to rectify his glove work and boost his confidence.

The spin quartet of Kuldeep Yadav, Yuzvendra Chahal, all-rounder Ravindra Jadeja and Washington Sundar will offer variety.

ALSO READ| Guwahati T20I: No posters; only phone, keys and purse allowed

The host, which won nine of its 16 T20I matches and previous two series last year, would be keen to continue its decade-old reputation of not losing to Sri Lanka in any series. Their last T20I encounter happened 22 months ago at the Nidahas Trophy.

Sri Lanka wants to build a healthy squad for the ICC World T20. It has recalled hard-hitting all-rounder Angelo Mathews.

Mathews, who last played a T20I match 16 months ago and has restricted himself from bowling to avoid recurring injuries, will not only be a valued player but also an asset for the Lasith Malinga-led side.

The Islanders, who faced defeat in nine of their 13 T20I duels and suffered a 3-0 loss to Australia Down Under in its last series in 2019, have included Kasun Rajitha in place of injured fast bowler Nuwan Pradeep and all-rounder Shehan Jayasuriya for Dhananjay de Silva.

The ACA and the state government have made foolproof arrangements to thwart any attempt of anti-Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) protest during the match.

Rain can be another spoilsport, but the ACA authorities— who are looking forward to host some Indian Premier League matches — trust the sand-based ground and state-of-the-art drainage system to begin action quickly in case of a shower disruption.

There are more reasons than one to look forward to the much-anticipated series opener.

The teams (from):

India: Virat Kohli (captain), Shikhar Dhawan, K.L. Rahul, Shreyas Iyer, Manish Pandey, Sanju Samson (wk), Rishabh Pant (wk), Shivam Dube, Yuzvendra Chahal, Kuldeep Yadav, Ravindra Jadeja, Shardul Thakur, Navdeep Saini, Jasprit Bumrah, Washington Sundar

Sri Lanka: Lasith Malinga (captain), Danushka Gunathilaka, Avishka Fernando, Angelo Mathews, Dasun Shanaka, Kusal Perera, Niroshan Dickwella, Dhananjaya de Silva, Isuru Udana, Bhanuka Rajapaksa, Oshada Fernando, Wanindu Hasaranga, Lahiru Kumara, Kusal Mendis (wk), Niroshan Dickwella (wk), Lakshan Sandakan, Kasun Rajitha.

Match officials

Match referee: David Boon

On-field umpires: Anil Choudhary and Nitin Menon

TV umpire: C. Shamsuddin

Fourth umpire: Virender Sharma

Match starts at 7 p.m.

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