There is a massive difference between the Sri Lanka side that beat India in the 2014 World Twenty20 final and the one that will face them on Tuesday in the first T20 of the three-match series.
Lasith Malinga, Angelo Mathews, Nuwan Kulasekera, Rangana Herath and Nuwan Pradeep have all skipped selection due to injury. On Saturday, it emerged that even Tillakaratne Dilshan would miss the first match after he failed to arrive with the side due to a minor flare-up.
In recent weeks, Sri Lanka have faced the heat from sports minister Dayasiri Jayasekara. Their form too has come in for criticism from the minister, who instituted a probe to ascertain if the players were partying overnight and involving themselves in “scandalous behaviour” during their tour of New Zealand. They lost both the Tests, the five-match ODI series 1-3 and the two T20I matches.
The results meant that Sri Lanka, the defending World T20 champions, lost their No 1 rank in the format.
Jayasekara also claimed to have photographs of players partying ahead of matches, alleging that was the reason behind their poor showing. He later said there was a “lot of tension and friction” among the players.
On his return, skipper Mathews assured that strict action would be taken against those found guilty in the investigation.
“I can’t deny or accept that these things happened. But I can promise that there will be no mercy for any member found guilty of misconduct,” he had said.
The team in India has been given strict instructions to adhere to curfew hours, and the movement of team members is under scrutiny.
Earlier, Jayasekara had fast bowling coach Anusha Samaranayake suspended for an alleged attempt to fix a Test against the West Indies. The allegations pertain to the first Test in Galle in October, which Sri Lanka won by an innings and six runs.
Since the controversies erupted, the minister has been monitoring the day-to-day affairs of the team. Even the players selected for the India tour were ‘approved’ by the minister.
The young side that has travelled to India will face a near-full strength India outfit that has begun its preparations for the World T20 in earnest.
Amid the distractions off the field and slide in form, Sri Lanka are yet to announce their squad for the World T20. While the series does provide a platform for the young players to show their skills, they will do so with the knowledge that they will be under intense scrutiny.