Virat Kohli-led India aim to outclass Sri Lanka in lone T20, end tour on a high
Virat Kohli will aim to sign off a triumphant tour with victory in the skipper’s 50th match when India take on Sri Lanka in a one-off Twenty20 International at the R Premasada Stadium on Wednesday.
India swept aside the hosts 3-0 in Tests and 5-0 in the ODI series, but could face some resistance in the shortest format at the end of a series of one-sided contests.
All of India’s 14-player squad – Shikhar Dhawan flew home to be with his ailing mother – are Indian Premier League stars. They will be out to prove they are the drawing card two days after the IPL media rights fetched a whopping R16,347 crore for five years until 2022.
Although they have been in the thick of IPL action, India have played just four T20 ties in 2017. They beat England 2-1 in a home series in January-February, but lost by nine wickets in the only game played in the West Indies before landing in Sri Lanka.
Sri Lanka, who were listless in the longer versions with blame aimed at the cricket administration, selectors and players, have had a better run in T20s this year.
The hosts have won five of their eight T20 Internationals in 2017. That includes back-to-back 2-1 bilateral series wins in South Africa and Australia. It was followed by a 1-1 result against Bangladesh at home in April.
India enjoy a 6-4 win-loss record against Sri Lanka, and won their last meeting in the Asia Cup at Dhaka in 2016.
Kohli and the team management though will have to decide who will be opening the innings, with Rohit Sharma, Ajinkya Rahane, KL Rahul as well as the skipper in the mix.
Rahul flopped as a middle-order batsman in the ODI series, but has played six of his eight T20s as opener. He formed an opening partnership with Kohli in the three-game home series against England in January, soon after Kohli took over as limited-overs skipper.
Rahul is the only India batsman to score a century in all three formats, though his 110 in the T20 tie against West Indies at Lauderhill last year came at No 4.
Handing Rohit, Rahul or Rahane the opener’s spot could also mean Kohli coming down the order. In his 49 T20 Internationals, he has opened only six times, and that includes the last four matches since becoming skipper.
Rahane did not play the one-off Caribbean T20 game and got to play only the final ODI in Sri Lanka due to Dhawan’s absence.
India are without R Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja but at least two of Axar Patel, Yuzvendra Chahal and Kuldeep Yadav can step up along with pacers Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Jasprit Bumrah.
Uncertainty running through the Sri Lankan ranks again came to the fore after the selectors revised the T20 squad on Monday. Leg-spinner Jeffrey Vandersay and Dasun Shanaka, a seam-bowling all-rounder, have been included in the side.
Struggling top-order batsman Kusal Mendis and young pacer Vishwa Fernando are out along with the injured Dinesh Chandimal.
Weather could play spoilsport on Wednesday. There was steady rain on Tuesday after the start of the final ODI was delayed by 30 minutes due to showers.