India vs Sri Lanka, 1st T20I: Preview - New decade, same old opponent as Virat Kohli & Co look to solve the jigsaw puzzle for the T20 World Cup

Bumrah is set to make his comeback.

Jasprit Bumrah
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Jasprit Bumrah. (Photo Source: Twitter)

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It is the beginning of the new decade but some things never change. India has played Sri Lanka at least once a year since 1983, and guess what, they are playing them again at the beginning of a new decade, just like they had done at the start of the 2010s. India kickstarted the recently concluded decade with an ODI against Sri Lanka, and exactly ten years to the day- 05 January 2010- they will commence the 2020s with the first of three T20Is at the Baraspara Stadium in Guwahati on Sunday.

It wasn’t expected to turn out the way it has. Sri Lanka wasn’t expected to be in India at this time of the year. In fact, Zimbabwe was slated to tour India for the first time since 2002 but following the suspension of the African nation by the ICC back in September, BCCI had to ring in their 3 AM friend Sri Lanka, who, of course, had no issues in reciprocating the same. And, so here we are! It is the start of the new decade with the same old- An India vs Sri Lanka series.

The last time Sri Lanka beat India in a bilateral series, none of a current lot of cricketers from both sides had made their debut, the Indian Premier League and the T20 revolution was still a few years away. In fact, the ‘rivalry’- irrespective of whether the matches are played in Sri Lanka or India- has been so lopsided in the past six-seven years, that the Men in Blue has had to barely flex their muscles. 

But, T20 is India’s weakest suit. And, given the fact that they almost always start a new decade with a defeat, as they did at the start of 2010 against the same opponent, it is unlikely that Virat Kohli‘s men would take the series lightly. Besides the fact that they still have a few questions to answer with regards to their team combinations, they will have to wary of the fact that the visitors have a good mix of youthful exuberance.

Sri Lanka have Dasun Shanaka, Bhanuka Rajapaksa, Wanindu Hasaranga and experienced campaigners like Lasith Malinga, Angelo Mathews, who can spring a surprise as they did at the expense of Pakistan, a few months ago.

Team Combinations

India

In the last T20I against West Indies, India batted with a better tempo at the top, one that allowed them to bat the West Indies out of the game. KL Rahul made the most of the opportunities in the absence of Dhawan. With Rohit Sharma taking a rest from the T20I series, they do not have the headache which they are likely to face once all the three openers are available for selection.

In many ways, this T20I series against Sri Lanka could be a make-or-break situation for Shikhar Dhawan- The T20I batsman, and it will be interesting to see how he goes about his business. Apart from that, the middle-order looks fairly settled with Virat, Shreyas Iyer and Rishabh Pant slotting in at 3, 4 and 5.

Jasprit Bumrah‘s comeback is set to bolster the pace-bowling attack which will feature Shardul Thakur and Navdeep Saini as the two allies to the champion fast bowler. India dropped Jadeja in their last T20I against West Indies in favour of Shivam Dube with Washington Sundar and Kuldeep Yadav slotting in as the specialist spinners. And, it will be interesting to see whether they go down the same route or re-unite KUL-CHA.

Probable XI: Shikhar Dhawan, KL Rahul, Virat Kohli (c), Shreyas Iyer, Rishabh Pant (wk), Ravindra Jadeja, Washington Sundar, Shivam Dube/Shardul Thakur, Navdeep Saini, Jasprit Bumrah, Yuzvendra Chahal/Kuldeep Yadav.

Sri Lanka

The island nation welcomed back former captain Angelo Mathews in their set-up for the T20I series against India. The batting unit will once again be led by the likes of Kusal Mendis, Niroshan Dickwella, Bhanuka Rajapaksa and Matthews. Lasith Malinga will spearhead the bowling unit alongside Lahiru Kumara and all-rounder Isuru Udana while it will be interesting to see of Sri Lanka opts for the leg-spin of Wanindu Hasaranga.

Probable XI: Kusal Mendis, Niroshan Dickwella (wk), Kusal Perera, Angelo Mathews, Dasun Shanaka, Bhanuka Rajapaksa, Dhananjaya de Silva, Isuru Udana, Lasith Malinga (c), Wanindu Hasaranga, Lahiru Kumara.

Focus will be on

Jasprit Bumrah [IND]- The value that Jasprit Bumrah brings to the Indian white-ball bowling- especially at the death- couldn’t have been more highlighted in these past four months when the champion fast bowler wasn’t available for selection. Now, having gained full fitness, Bumrah is raring to go and he showed that during an intense bowling session in the nets ahead of the series. When Bumrah eventually marks his run-up on January 05th, the world will be watching; it always is.

Lasith Malinga [SL]- If the prodigy is under the spotlight, how could the master miss out. In the past one year, Malinga has defied age and fitness and with this possibly being his last bilateral series on Indian soil, the champion fast bowler will be looking to sign it off with not only his individual performances but also- hopefully- with a rare series win over India.

Stat Attack

1- No of matches India have won at the start of a new decade since 1940. The only game that India has won at the start of a new decade, was against Pakistan [by ten wickets] on 15th January 1980.

11- Number of T20Is India has won against Sri Lanka; their joint-most against any side in the world. If India wins the upcoming series 3-0, then they will go past Pakistan for the most wins against a particular side in T20Is.

0– Number of T20Is Virat Kohli has played against Sri Lanka on home soil.

Broadcast Details

TV – Star Sports 1, Star Sports 1 HD

Online – Hotstar

Match Timings – 19:00 local time, 13:30 GMT