A dominant Indian team is expected to maintain its stranglehold on lowly Sri Lanka and wrap up the three-match Twenty20 International series when the two teams face off in the second at Indore on Friday. There seems no end in sight for the visitors’ woes, who slumped to a heavy 93-run defeat in the series-opener in Cuttack.
While the Indian youngsters have delivered, the Lankans are going through a terrible phase of transition, and are badly in need of reliable performers. The result has been a string of crushing defeats off late, prompting many to question the very logic of India playing Sri Lanka so often during the international calendar.
The ongoing series is hardly ideal preparation for the daunting South Africa tour that awaits India next month. The Indian batsmen have made merry against a toothless attack. Runs and wickets always give confidence to the players, but questions remain over how much these performances will count against the Proteas.
Absence of regular skipper Virat Kohli and Shikhar Dhawan has not given any respite to the Sri Lankans, who rely heavily on seniors such as Angelo Mathews to come good.
However, even the senior Lankan players have struggled to counter the rampant hosts. A robust domestic structure coupled with Indian Premier League’s success has ensured good bench strength for the hosts. Players such as Yuzvendra Chahal and Kuldeep Yadav have managed to carve a niche for themselves immediately after making their International debuts.
Sri Lanka need captain Thisara Perera, Upul Tharanga and Mathews to lead by example. They have been part of the side for a long time, and only strong performances from them can infuse life into this side, which has been on a freefall of sorts. Players such as Dusmantha Chameera and Dhananjaya de Silva have shown promise and need guidance to be consistent.
India does not need its best team to prevail over the current Sri Lankan combination, yet it is imperative that they keep performing well. They may not get big credit for success but failure against weaker opponents would surely put them in negative light.
MS Dhoni, whose finishing prowess has suddenly come under the scanner, got some runs under his belt after being promoted to number four in Cuttack, and is likely to continue in the same position so that he gets enough overs in match situation before the ODI and T20 challenge in South Africa.
Shreyas Iyer, who scored 24 in Cuttack, would also look to get some substantial runs in the absence of Kohli and Shikhar Dhawan. KL Rahul is in good touch and Indian bowlers are also in fine rhythm since the beginning of this tour. It won’t be a surprise if they continue to dominate the Lankan batsmen.
India: Rohit Sharma (c), K L Rahul, Shreyas Iyer, Manish Pandey, Dinesh Karthik, MS Dhoni, Hardik Pandya, Washington Sundar, Yuzvendra Chahal, Kuldeep Yadav, Deepak Hooda, Jasprit Bumrah, Mohammad Siraj, Basil Thampi and Jaydev Unadkat.
Sri Lanka: Thisara Perera(c), Upul Tharanga, Angelo Mathews, Kusal Janith Perera, Danushka Gunathilaka, Niroshan Dickwella, Asela Gunaratne, Sadeera Samarawickrama, Dasun Shanaka, Chaturanga de Silva, Sachith Pathirana, Dhananjaya De Silva, Nuwan Pradeep, Vishwa Fernando and Dusmantha Chameera.