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India v Sri Lanka, 1st T20I: India Predicted XI

Shikhar Dhawan and Bhuneshwar Kumar are rested for the series.

Indian Team
Indian Team. (Photo Source: Twitter)

After an even contest in the recently concluded One-Day International series, India and Sri Lanka are all set to lock horns in the shortest format of the game. The three-match series is expected to be nothing short of a thriller for the fans as the Indian selectors have named a relatively inexperienced side. The team doesn’t boast of experienced seam bowlers as only Jasprit Bumrah has made the cut with as many as five players have received their maiden national call-up. However, the batting line-up is similar barring Shikhar Dhawan who was the Man of the Series in the ODIs.

The Men in Blue came back stunningly after being steamrolled by the Sri Lankans in the first game in Dharamsala. First, they roared back into the series courtesy a sensational double-ton from their skipper Rohit Sharma and then the masterclass of the wrist spinners was on display in the decider which all but sealed the match and the series for India in the first half itself. Rohit, the stand-in skipper would hope that he starts with a win in the T20I format unlike the ODIs. Though he would have to deal with the new players and has a task on his hands to make them feel comfortable at the highest level.

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Sri Lanka, on the other hand, is almost same apart from a few changes here and there and they will be playing under Thisara Perera once again. Perera would feel more confident in this format of outplaying the Men in Blue. It would be an interesting battle as they would love to end the tour on a high by winning the series but they would also be concentrating on the first game in Cuttack currently where India played like an aberration against Australia only a couple of months ago.

Here we bring you the predicted XI of India for the first game of the three-match series:

Openers (Rohit Sharma ©, KL Rahul)

The opening combination is set to change as Shikhar Dhawan is rested ahead of an all-important tour to South Africa. KL Rahul though is a brilliant batsman in the format and also has a century to his name. He will be itching to prove a point after being dropped from the other two formats following poor returns in the series against Sri Lanka away and Australia at home. Rahul would love to make a mark and gain some much-needed confidence ahead of the tough tour as he might have to play if any player gets injured mid-way through the series.

Rohit Sharma is in scintillating form and is coming on the back of a sensational double-century in the ODI series. He can make merry of any bowling attack after getting settled early on and he would love to lead from the front like he did in the must-win encounter in Mohali. It is also important for him to arrest India’s recent slide in the first game of the series which is fast becoming a habit now. If he clicks on the day, then the victory is sure for the Men in Blue as he decimates the completely.

Middle Order (Shreyas Iyer, Dinesh Karthik, Manish Pandey, MS Dhoni (wk))

The middle-order will be similar as it was in the ODI series with the batsmen deserving more chances to cement their position. Shreyas Iyer proved he belongs at the highest level and is in prime form with back-to-back half-centuries. Moreover, the way he paced his innings in the chase in Vizag is the perfect testament to his temperament. He would be looking to continue in the same vein from where he left a couple of days ago. He might well be the future star for the team in the middle-order and also the long-term answer for the no. 4 conundrum in the line-up albeit in ODIs.

Dinesh Karthik and Manish Pandey are the two players who will be under pressure going into the series who bat at 4 & 5, the most debated positions in the line-up in the recent past. They got a golden opportunity in Dharamsala after the top-order failed miserably in testing conditions but they were found wanting with their techniques against the moving ball. Few more failures and they would not be touring South Africa with the squad for the ODI series. Though the team management has backed them time and again and the time has come for them to repay the faith.

MS Dhoni walks into this side on any given day but his future in the format was questioned not so long ago in the series against New Zealand. He had failed to accelerate at the right time and received the flak from the fans and experts despite scoring 49 off just 37 deliveries. He is well past his prime but ‘Dhoni’ product is surely done and dusted. A whirlwind innings from Mahi might well be on its way at the death overs in Cuttack. Sri Lankan bowlers need to be careful with him as they might have to bear all the brunt he has been facing off late.

All-Rounder (Hardik Pandya)

Hardik Pandya had a comparatively lean ODI series after being rested for the Test series. His batting was not required as the top-order clicked in the last two matches but he will be disappointed that he couldn’t bail his team out of the trouble in Dharamsala. He was even taken to the cleaners with the ball early on by Upul Tharanga in the decider on Sunday. However, he made a comeback by picking two crucial wickets and would love to make an impact as an all-rounder in the first T20I. He will be eager to smash a few maximums after coming in to bat in the final overs of the innings.

Bowlers (Kuldeep Yadav, Yuzvendra Chahal, Jasprit Bumrah, Jaydev Unadkat)

The wrist-spinning duo of Kuldeep Yadav and Yuzvendra Chahal put on an exhibition of spin bowling in the deciding game of the series on Sunday. They literally spun a web around the Lankan batsmen who had no idea of the turning ball and succumbed to pressure. Both of them surely would love to bowl in tandem once again to choke the opposition run-scoring. The result of the match could well depend on how well the Thisara Perera and his men counter the spin threat of Yadav and Chahal. The duo is in good form and if they can replicate the same performance, India might canter to victory.

Jasprit Bumrah will lead the bowling attack in his favourite format and also in the absence of his partner Bhuvneshwar Kumar. He will most probably bowl at the death and has won the lost games for India this year. He would love to cap off an excellent year for him personally with another good performance in Cuttack. His presence at the death would make any captain feel assured as his ability to bowl pinpoint yorkers is absolutely mind-boggling.

Jaydev Unadkat might see himself in the playing XI straight away as he brings the much-needed variety to the one-dimensional bowling attack. The angle created by the left-arm seamer was the reason India lost the last T20I at the same venue against Australia. Interestingly, he also had a brilliant IPL season earlier this year with Rising Pune Supergiant (RPS) as the franchise made it to the finals. Unadkat was also the second highest wicket-taker of the lucrative tournament. He would just want to bowl on the same lines and seal his place in the side.

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