Confident after their convincing 3-0 clean sweep of Australia in the T20 series , India Twenty20 and ODI skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni would seek to continue their winning momentum when they take on a depleted and new-look Sri Lanka in the first of three T20 Internationals, in Pune.
These three matches would certainly act as the springboard for the hosts to begin their preparations for the Asia Cup T20 Championship, beginning in Bangladesh later this month and the World T20 in India next month. India will also look to win the T20 series to retain their number one position in the ICC T20I Championship table, which they achieved after sweeping aside Australia last week.
The hosts will definitely miss their Test captain Virat Kohli, who was in glorious form in the three-match T20 series in Australia, as well as in the preceding ODI series Down Under which India lost 1-4.
Even in the absence of their batting mainstay Kohli, who has been rested by the selectors before the more important Asia Cup and the World T20 events, the home team’s batting strength looks pretty formidable for the new-look attack of Sri Lanka, the defending World T20 Champions.
In Rohit Sharma, who was also in top form in Australia, and Shikhar Dhawan — who took time to get going Down Under, the home team has the perfect set of right-left openers who have repeatedly given the side great starts and they could be a handful for the largely inexperienced Lanka bowling attack on the Indian batting tracks.
The riches are evident in the rest of the batting order with the likes of Suresh Raina, captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni and the recalled Yuvraj Singh, present along with the fit-again Ajinkya Rahane and Manish Pandey who played a match-winning knock in the final ODI in Australia but did not figure in the subsequent T20s.
In fact, Pandey would be very eager to stamp his class in the T20 format too ahead of the Asia Cup and World T20 events for which he has not found a place in the squad.
In the bowling department too, the same attack that figured in the series in Australia, including Bhuvneshwar Kumar who is not part of the Asia Cup or World T20 squad, would be seen although he may not be among the first choice for seam-up stuff in the presence of Ashish Nehra and Jasprit Bumrah, who had impressed with his unorthodox action and extra pace in Australia.
With the matches being held in conditions favouring the slow bowlers more than the pace men, India are expected to go in with their regulars Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja, along with the vastly experienced Harbhajan Singh . Also, left-arm spinner Pawan Negi would be itching to make his international debut.
On the other hand, the visitors, who are being led by batsman Dinesh Chandimal, will be without their regular T20 captain Lasith Malinga and Test skipper Angelo Mathews for the entire series as they are nursing a knee injury and a groin strain respectively. Experienced all-rounder Tillakaratne Dilshan has also been ruled out of the opening game due to a hand injury. Though Dilshan, who is expected to be available from the second game in Ranchi on February 12, has been covered by the inclusion of newcomer Niroshan Dickwella, who was adjudged the best batsman of the Super T20 provincial tournament which concluded recently in the Emerald Isle.
Apart from Dickwella, pacer Dushmantha Chameera and leg-spinner Jeffrey Vandersay, who played on the recent New Zealand tour, are newcomers to India along with left-arm seamer Binura Fernando.