IND vs SL 1st T20I Preview
The new year is upon us and it’s the year of the T20 World Cup. So, much like the focus on ODI cricket last year due to the 2019 World Cup, the focus has already shifted to the shortest format for this year.
Sri Lanka are making a short visit to India for a three-match T20I series and this will be the first white-ball series of the year 2020 and also, of the decade. If you thought India play West Indies quite a bit, you haven’t seen their past record with Sri Lanka. The two Asian neighbouring nations have played each other in at least one game every year (in any of the three formats) since 1983.
But it wasn’t supposed to be Sri Lanka this time. Zimbabwe were scheduled to tour India for the first time since February 2002. However, the African nation’s suspension from the ICC (which has now been revoked) led to India inviting Sri Lanka to fill the void.
Sri Lanka Overview
It’s not the first time Sri Lanka are coming to India to fill in for another team. The island nation came to India for a five-match ODI series in late 2014 as well when West Indies called off their tour half way through. Sri Lanka are coming to India on the back of some mixed bag of results.
In fact, they’ve had a very strange 2019 as far as T20Is are concerned. They won four out of their 13 games and all four of them came in a row. The Lasith Malinga-led side won a dead rubber game against New Zealand before surprising Pakistan and blanking them 3-0 in Pakistan with a relatively second-string side. But either side of those four wins, they were outplayed more often than not.
As far as India are concerned, they’ve had a mixed bag as well. It’s become clichéd to say T20 is their weakest format. They won nine and lost seven T20Is in 2019 but they’ve shown signs of improvement. Batting first has been an issue but they are trying to address it. The dependence on the top three still exists but the emergence of the likes of Shreyas Iyer and Rishabh Pant and their recent form has been promising.
Virat Kohli has taken it upon himself to address the batting first issue. He set a precedent in that third T20I against West Indies and showed that the ‘Men in Blue’ are willing to go for those extra runs. KL Rahul has been excellent at the top of the order. While it may seem like he is India’s No. 1 T20 opener but he may still be fighting for that one spot with comeback man Shikhar Dhawan.
With Rohit Sharma rested for this series, Dhawan has an opportunity to correct what has rather been a poor T20I career. Barring 2018, the Delhi southpaw hasn’t had the best of times in the shortest format. Yet, India keep going back to him. Thus, this may be his last chance to impress in the T20 format and it may well be a direct shootout with Rahul to be Rohit’s opening partner.
Shivam Dube’s case is interesting as well. He continues to be the seam-bowling all-rounder in Hardik Pandya’s absence but has got limited opportunities to prove himself. Meanwhile, India will continue to bank upon the likes of Ravindra Jadeja and Washington Sundar as they give that assurance with the bat down the order at 7 and 8. Their ability with the bat means India can play just one wrist-spinner between Yuzvendra Chahal and Kuldeep Yadav.
IND vs SL 1st T20I Team News
India’s fast bowling injury woes see no end. Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Deepak Chahar have become the latest causalities but the return of Jasprit Bumrah will be one to watch out for. The Indian pace spearhead has been out since August last year and will be itching to have a go. Navdeep Saini and Shardul Thakur are the other pacers and will compete to partner Bumrah in the starting XI with India set to play three spinners.
On the other hand, Sri Lanka have brought back their old warrior in Angelo Mathews. The veteran all-rounder returns to the shortest format for the first time August 2018. Nuwan Pradeep suffered an injury during practice and hence, will not be a part of this tour. Moreover, they seemed to have got enough of Thisara Perera as well and he’s been overlooked for third T20I series in a row.
There’s some exciting crop of all-rounders in Dasun Shanaka, Wanindu Hasaranga and Isuru Udana who can make a great impact. Sri Lanka also have the Fernandos, Avishka and Oshada who have impressed but haven’t been consistent. But with Mathews’ return, it’ll be interesting to see who they play as they even have Dhananjaya De Silva in their ranks as well.
Kusal Mendis and Danushka Gunathilaka are likely to walk out and open the batting. Those two along with Kusal Perera form the heart of the Sri Lankan batting and they will be key in this series. The batting core of the Sri Lankan side looks pretty settled and also wears a solid look.
On the bowling front, the old workhorse and skipper Lasith Malinga will continue to spearhead the attack. However, he doesn’t have a great record against India and will want to correct that. He will have the likes of Kasun Rajitha and Lahiru Kumara accompanying him. Lakshan Sandakan has been around for a while now and will be Sri Lanka’s lead spinner as well.
Key Battle to watch out for in IND vs SL 1st T20I
Lasith Malinga’s record against India isn’t promising. He has a mere four wickets from seven T20Is against the ‘Men in Blue’ and he struggles against Kohli as well. Kohli has dominated this battle and has smashed 41 runs from 27 balls against Malinga in T20Is. The ace Sri Lankan pacer has dismissed Kohli just twice in international cricket.
India: Shikhar Dhawan, KL Rahul, Virat Kohli (C), Shreyas Iyer, Rishabh Pant (WK), Shivam Dube, Ravindra Jadeja, Washington Sundar, Navdeep Saini/Shardul Thakur, Yuzvendra Chahal, Jasprit Bumrah
Sri Lanka: Kusal Mendis, Danushka Gunathilaka, Dhananjaya De Silva/Oshada Fernando, Kusal Perera (WK), Angelo Mathews, Dasun Shanaka, Wanindu Hasaranga, Isuru Udana, Lakshan Sandakan, Kasun Rajitha, Lasith Malinga (C)
IND vs SL 1st T20I Prediction
India will start this series as favourites. They have an overwhelming record against Sri Lanka in T20Is. Overall, it is 11-5 to India but in their last 10 T20I meetings, Sri Lanka have won just two games. Moreover, Sri Lanka haven’t beaten India in a bilateral series in any format since 2008. And when you reduce it to only white-ball cricket, the islanders last won a bilateral series against Indian back in 1997.