This India- Sri Lanka series was seen as an ideal platform for both teams to experiment with their line-up ahead of the World Twenty20. India’s loss in the first game though seems to have robbed the hosts of this luxury. The visitors, on the other hand, are trying to piece together a combination after many injuries.
Two of the seasoned players waiting in the wings are Harbhajan Singh and Sri Lanka pacer Dilhara Fernando. Harbhajan (35) has now spent four successive games on the bench, having sat out the 3-0 series sweep in Australia as well.
Fernando (36), who had made a surprise comeback for this series, was ignored for the Pune game where rookie seamers Kasun Rajitha and Dasun Shanaka vindicated their selection.
Both Harbhajan and Fernando, once the mainstay of their sides, have been reduced to back-up bowlers. Harbhajan has in fact clawed his way back into the India squad following performances in the IPL and domestic competitions.
Harbhajan’s return to the playing XI will depend on pitch conditions as well as the form of R Ashwin. With the latter going great guns, the Punjab player will have to wait. The arrival of left-arm spinner Pawan Negi, a useful lower order batsman as well, is another hurdle for Harbhajan. With Ravindra Jadeja’s wicket-to-wicket left-arm spin very effective on sub-continent pitches, the spin unit looks sorted.
India team director, Ravi Shastri said besides the conditions, any experiment will depend on the team’s position in the series.
For Fernando too, a look-in appears unlikely. His return to the squad, after four years, was more of a desperate call by Sri Lanka due to the absence of their injured main pacers. Kasun Rajitha delivering on debut means the ageing Fernando too will have to wait.
With the dry conditions at the JSCA stadium pointing to a turning track, India will be keen to test out Negi, especially with skipper MS Dhoni aware of the youngster’s ability during his time with Chennai Super Kings. Sri Lanka are unlikely to change their bowling combination considering their fine performance in the first game.