PUNE: India will look to wrap up the three-match T20I series here on Friday against a young Sri Lankan side which is still developing as a unit. The hosts are already leading the series 1-0, with the first game having been washed out, and the real concern for them is not the quality of opposition but getting a perfect XI in place by the time the T20I World Cup in Australia arrives later this year.
Skipper Virat Kohli, interestingly, had a bittersweet training session on Thursday. After missing a pull shot off a short delivery, an infuriated Kohli smashed the stumps with his bat. The very next ball, though, he offered a very calm defensive shot to a delivery on a similar length, betraying any sign of having lost his cool off just the previous delivery!
The Gahunje stadium too has mixed memories for Kohli’s side. The last T20I played here ended in a loss for the hosts against the same opposition in 2016, in a match in which Kohli was rested.
From that team, only Jasprit Bumrah and Shikhar Dhawan have kept their places, indicating that India’s T20I team has been in experimentation mode for a while now. Chopping and changing has been the norm.
This time, on the pace bowling front, in-and-out players Navdeep Saini and Shardul Thakur will continue beefing up the attack in the presence of returning talisman Jasprit Bumrah. Kuldeep Yadav said their collective impact was also aiding the spinners. “When I came to bowl (in the second game in Indore) it was already 10 overs and the way they (pacers) bowled, spinners could take the chance of doing something different,” said Kuldeep.
Also interesting to watch is the brewing competition between openers Shikhar Dhawan and KL Rahul. Who will be the first choice to partner Rohit Sharma once he returns? As of now, Rahul has a stronger case with only one below-40 score in his last five outings, in which he has scored 261 runs, including a 91 against West Indies.
In Action 📸📸 Bowlers going full tilt ahead of the final T20I in Pune 💪 #TeamIndia #INDvSL @Paytm https://t.co/4ufGEXsNAN
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Meanwhile, Dhawan has failed to capitalize on strong starts, with his last five scores being 32, 19, 31, 41 and 36. He has been plagued by injury too. Can Dhawan provide the sort of electric starts India are keen on?
The story of the middle order has been the quick rise of Shreyas Iyer, who has been tremendous with two 50-plus scores in his last five innings. Promoted to No. 3 in the second T20I in Indore, Iyer got 34 off 26 balls batting in Kohli’s position. He can hit the ball cleanly over the ropes and also play the role of an anchor if the situation demands.
Kohli has admitted in the past that he wants Nos. 6 and 7 onwards to contribute more with the bat, and maybe power-hitters Shivam Dubey and Rishabh Pant can come in handy at the finish.
On the other hand, the visitors faced a problem of middle-order collapse in Indore. They sank from 82-3 in the 12th over to 142-9. Sri Lanka coach Mickey Arthur hinted after the seven-wicket loss that there could be a shake-up in the batting lineup.
Will Angelo Matthews, who made a T20 comeback after 16 months, finally get a game? “After that batting performance, everybody has a chance of playing,” said Arthur referring to the defeat.
Lanka’s bowling attack, meanwhile, can look forward to redeeming itself on a greenish Pune surface. Lasith Malinga, being the experienced bowler, needs support from right-arm pacer Lahiru Kumara and all-rounder Dasun Shanaka. Kasun Rajitha could come in place of Isuru Udana, who was injured while fielding in the second game.
Source : timesofindia