The beginning of the T20 series against Sri Lanka signals the end of India’s home comfort. This is the last opportunity for India to test its bench strength ahead of a long haul of overseas assignments, starting with the tour of South Africa next month.
Having secured the Test and one-day series, India will be keen to give exposure to some youngsters, who have shone in the Indian Premier League (IPL), in the three-match T20 series starting at the Barabati Stadium here on Wednesday.
The uncapped players – pacer Basil Thampi, hard-hitter Deepak Hooda and all-rounder Washington Sundar – will hope to make their debut in the season of experiments. Speedsters Jaydev Unadkat, who made his lone Test appearance in 2010, and Mohammed Siraj have featured in only one T20I apiece and will be interested to serve the country to the best of their ability.
The composition of the bowling department suddenly makes the quartet of Jasprit Bumrah, Hardik Pandya, Yuzvendra Chahal and Kuldeep Yadav appear too seasoned.
Even without regular skipper Virat Kohli, Shikhar Dhawan and Kedar Jadhav, the Rohit Sharma-led side has the batting prowess to overhaul any stiff target. Needless to say, no one misses Ajinkya Rahane.
The new look of the Indian squad speaks of a foolproof process that churns out able and confident cricketers, who are eager to gell with the established members of the side and prove their worth.
Dinesh Karthik spoke about the reliable supply line that complemented with the winning environment in the team, which has the guidance of a seasoned pro like M.S. Dhoni.
“In T20Is they are constantly trying and seeing all the players in fray, trying to assess how each one reacts to different situations. This is a great platform for a lot of young guys to come in and showcase their talent. The Indian team has reached a stage where no matter which team we are playing, we try and achieve some good thing on the field every time,” said Karthilk, ahead of Tuesday's nets session without Shreyas Iyer, Pandya and Bumrah.
While trying out various combinations, the host may not mind having tougher challenges – such as having a bigger boundary and dealing with the dew factor. Such situations will demand a show character from its players.
Sri Lanka, which started with a bang by winning the first ODI in Dharamshala but ended up losing the series, has no choice but to begin afresh with a positive mindset. A T20 series victory will not only redeem some pride, but will also boost the confidence of the side.
Without some of its top players, such as Dinesh Chandimal, Lasith Malinga, Suranga Lakmal and Lahiru Thirimane, Sri Lanka, which is expecting its new coach Chandika Hathurusingha to joing the squad sooner than later, is likely to field a pack of less-experienced players as well.
All-rounder Dasun Shanaka and left-arm pacer Vishwa Fernando have joined the squad in the place of Thirimane and Lakmal.
Captain Thisara Perera will do well to focus on choosing the best combination and ask his mates to capitalise on crucial moments to come good against a formidable opponent.
Considering the fact the ground hosted several other sporting events over the past months, it will be intriguing to see how the flat looking pitch behaves on the match day.
Arrangements are in place to help the venue, which witnessed its first T20 international being awarded to South Africa due to bottle throwing from the stands in 2015, conduct the series opener smoothly.
The teams (from):
India: Rohit Sharma (captain), K.L. Rahul, Shreyas Iyer, Manish Pandey, Dinesh Karthik, MS Dhoni, Hardik Pandya, Washington Sundar, Yuzvendra Chahal, Kuldeep Yadav, Deepak Hooda, Jasprit Bumrah, Mohammad Siraj, Basil Thampi and Jaydev Unadkat.
Sri Lanka: Thisara Perera (captain), Upul Tharanga, Angelo Mathews, Kusal Perera, Danushka Gunathilaka, Niroshan Dickwella, Asela Gunaratne, Sadeera Samarawickrama, Dasun Shanaka, Chaturanga de Silva, Sachith Pathirana, Dananjaya De Silva, Nuwan Pradeep, Vishwa Fernando and Dusmantha Chameera.
Match officials: Jeff Crowe (match referee), Nitin Menon (umpire), Nandan (umpire), Anil Chaudhary (TV umpire), Anil Dandekar (reserve umpire).
Match starts at 7 p.m.
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