Pressure on favourite India in must-win game

Surprisingly trailing in the three-match T20 series against a largely inexperienced Sri Lankan combination, the host has to simply play to its potential and make it 1-1 on Friday.

Tillakaratne Dilshan's possible participation in Ranchi will boost Sri Lanka.   -  K. R. Deepak

Medium-pacer Hardik Pandya may be replaced by the uncapped spinner Pawan Negi on a Ranchi track less likely to favour seamers as in Pune.   -  AP

Kasun Rajitha, Man of the Match in the previous Twenty20 in Pune, bowls in a practice session at the JSCA Stadium in Ranchi.   -  K. R. Deepak

The pressure is firmly on India to win. Surprisingly trailing in the three-match T20 series against a largely inexperienced Sri Lankan combination, the host has to simply play to its potential and make it 1-1 on Friday.

With some of the leading Sri Lankans not in the squad, the visiting team’s bench-strength came good at Pune where Indian batting came a cropper. Therefore, should Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s men stay focussed on making amends, there will only be one result possible. Such is the difference in the optimum playing-strength of the teams.

One look at the ground here at the JSCA Stadium – a late replacement for Delhi’s Ferozeshah Kotla ground to host this tie – and the bald patches in the outfield stick out as in eyesore. In some places, there is less grass than in the pitch in Pune. In such a scenario and given the upcoming Asia Cup and World Twenty20, it should not come as a surprise if the fielders refrain from throwing themselves at every passing ball.

In a boost for the Lankans, Tillakaratne Dilshan joined the team after missing the series-opener owing to a hand injury. On Thursday, he batted without showing any apparent discomfort. As Chamara Kapugedera later mentioned, it was possible for Dilshan to play.

In that case, in all likelihood, Niroshan Dickwella will lose his place with skipper Dinesh Chandimal donning the keeper’s gloves.

For India, with Ravi Shastri clear on giving those in the World Cup squad a “good run,” chances of Pawan Negi replacing Hardik Pandya cannot be ruled out on Friday. The pitch, too, also appears dry and should encourage the spinners.

Strangely, as host, India has twice in succession got it wrong at the start of the T20 series. When South Africa’s first full tour was scheduled last year, the host offered the high-altitude Dharamshala as the venue for the visitors to get going. Conditions suited the visiting fast bowlers better and the result was not surprising.

Results forgotten

Again, notwithstanding the outcome of the toss, the ‘green-looking’ pitch prepared by curator and former fast bowler P. Salgaoncar in the series opener at Pune, posed more problems for the Indian top-order than their counterparts.

Clearly, there was nothing wrong with the pitch being grassy but the Indians, fresh from playing on true Australian pitches, fell in a heap.Rohit Sharma and Ajinkya Rahane underestimated the need to get their bat-speed right to deal with the deliveries pitched on drivable lengths. Most of the other dismissals were due to flaws in stroke-selection.

These days, given the frequency of matches, there is very little time to gloat or grieve over results. One bad evening is soon forgotten when it is followed by a great outing, or vice-versa.

How many fans care to remember that in the past year, India trailed 0-2 to Bangladesh in the three-match ODI series and could not prevent Zimbabwe from levelling the two-match T20 series? And now, high after blanking Australia 3-0 in the shortest format of the game, India are being made to carry out a reality check by a depleted Sri Lanka.

There is no denying the fact that the young Lankans have everything to gain in this series. As seen in the first match, the fast bowlers were rewarded for their consistent, disciplined line that frustrated the eager-to-dominate Indians.

Given the situation India finds itself in the series, the host can expected to come very hard at the opposition. Unlike in Pune, batsmen and spinners will have significant roles to play.

The teams:

India: M.S. Dhoni (c), Shikhar Dhawan, Rohit Sharma Ajinkya Rahane, Suresh Raina, Yuvraj Singh, Ravindra Jadeja, Ravichandran Ashwin, Jasprit Bumrah, Pawan Negi, Ashish Nehra, Manish Pandey, Hardik Pandya, Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Harbhajan Singh.

Sri Lanka: Dinesh Chandimal (c), Dushmantha Chameera, Niroshan Dickwella, Tillakaratne Dilshan, Binura Fernando, Dilhara Fernando, Asela Gunaratne, Danushka Gunathilaka, Chamara Kapugedera, Thisara Perera, Seekkuge Prasanna, Kasun Rajitha, Sachithra Senanayake, Dasun Shanaka, Milinda Siriwardana, Jeffrey Vandersay.

(Play begins at 7.30 pm)

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