India vs Sri Lanka, 2nd T20I: After wet start, hope for dry run
The last time India and Sri Lanka met at the Holkar Stadium here, in December 2017, Rohit Sharma’s 43-ball 118 powered India to their highest T20I total—260/5—with the team winning by 88 runs. However, with Sri Lanka’s tormentor rested for this series, the narrative on Tuesday will be a lot different. The series has been reduced to two matches after the first was washed out in Guwahati on Sunday night.
With no action taking place at the Barsapara Cricket Stadium beyond the coin toss, the teams packed up and travelled around 2,200kms to get here on Monday. With only a one-day gap between the games, both sides chose not to train.
India are still in the process of finalising their best players and combinations that can lift an ICC trophy—the last was the 2013 Champions Trophy—with the team due to play two T20 World Cups before hosting the 50-over World Cup in 2023.
Sri Lanka, under the leadership of Lasith Malinga, have brought back Angelo Mathews into the fold after mixed showings in T20Is. A severely depleted team hammered Pakistan 3-0 in their backyard, but lost by similar margin in Australia. Sri Lanka have never won a series against India, but with only two matches to play, the visitors may fancy their chances of at least finishing even against their formidable rivals.
Virat Kohli’s men have shown vulnerabilities in the shortest format in recent months, and their past results—series wins against West Indies and Bangladesh before a draw against South Africa—showed lot of ground needs to be covered.
India drew the T20 series against South Africa 1-1 and searching for players who can give batting depth till No. 9. But against Sri Lanka, Kohli has trimmed it to ‘guys who are ready till Nos 6 or 7’. In an experimental phase with no Tests scheduled between the New Zealand tour (January-March) and the T20 World Cup in Australia (October), India have searched for bowlers who can bowl out oppositions, and batsmen who can take the pressure off the top three. Even in the home T20Is, the top three have time and again bailed out India, and hence consistency is required from the middle and lower order batsmen.
Sharma’s absence gives Shikhar Dhawan a chance to push his case. However, the latter is only likely to give the team management more headache as far as the top order is concerned. Dhawan competes for a spot against KL Rahul, with whom he will open.
While Shreyas Iyer displays consistency and form, the biggest concern perhaps would be for Rishabh Pant to score runs, and be tidier behind the wickets and chip in as a finisher. India have shown intent in investing in the likes of Shivam Dube, but the team management may want the Mumbai all-rounder to sharpen his bowling skills further while the first-choice bowlers are away.
India showed they were ready to adapt an aggressive approach from the word go in their last T20I against West Indies in Mumbai. In doing so, India notched up their third highest total in the format, and beat West Indies in their own game. Most importantly, they showed they were capable of adapting the template of most T20 sides—getting off to a racy start. However, with Sharma replaced by Dhawan for this series, it remains to be seen if the team persists with a similar approach.
Ever since India embarked on a mission to find their best T20 side, they have been without their preferred bowlers. Jasprit Bumrah is set to play his first match since September 2019, but he will be spearheading a bowling line-up fairly new to him. Mohammad Shami has been rested, and injuries to Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Deepak Chahar forced selectors to bring in Navdeep Saini and Shardul Thakur—who both were injured not long ago.
India have remained without their preferred fast bowling line-up throughout this extended run of T20Is at home, which has hurt the team’s ability to dominate as they do in the other formats, particularly in Tests.