As Tri-Nation T20 challenge begins, chance for India's fringe players to stake claims

Having faced Sri Lanka in 18 international matches this season (6Tests, 8 ODIs and 4 T20 Internationals) on home and away basis, another face-off can only add to the players as well as viewers' fatigue due to lack of context.

As Tri-Nation T20 challenge begins, chance for India's fringe players to stake claims
Photo: PTI

Colombo: The aim would be to stay on the selectors' radar for next year's World Cup when India's second-string team, led by Rohit Sharma, begins yet another Sri Lankan sojourn by taking on the islanders in the opening match of the Tri-Nation Nidahas Twenty20 Cup.

Having faced Sri Lanka in 18 international matches this season (6Tests, 8 ODIs and 4 T20 Internationals) on home and away basis, another face-off can only add to the players as well as viewers' fatigue due to lack of context.

Bangladesh is the third team in this series and though the sprightly bunch is known to add excitement, the series itself is not exactly an anticipated event after a rather exhausting trip to South Africa. However, for a bunch of youngsters, who will get to wear the India blues with as many as six top players being rested, would consider this a god-sent opportunity.

At this point in time, the senior national team has only that many specific roles but the enormous supply line means that the queue has only gotten longer. Enter the Rishabh Pants, Deepak Hoodas and the Mohammed Sirajs, who otherwise would have been cooling their heels back home and waiting for their respective IPL camps to start.

For all those who are likely to get a game, there will be just one target -- to make most of their chances as some of them might not get too many with just about 16 months left for the ICC World Cup. Even though this is a T20 tournament, a good performance will keep the national selection committee interested for those limited batting slots in the middle-order and perhaps the reserve pacers.

They have mauled Sri Lanka on most of the occasions and stand-in captain Rohit Sharma will have plenty of reasons to remain upbeat about taking the trophy back home. On a personal front, Rohit will be itching to get back to form after a poor South Africa tour where he managed only a single hundred in the one-dayers.

In the familiar territory of Premadasa Stadium, Rohit will love to come out all guns blazing in the company of Shikhar Dhawan. Suresh Raina is slowly getting back into the groove at No 3. The Lankan pitches and the pace trio of Suranga Lakmal, Dushmantha Chameera and Dasun Shanaka are not expected to pose too many problems to the stylish left-hander, who was out of the side for a year owing to fitness and form-related issues.

The extremely talented KL Rahul may have to miss out if he is not allowed to open by the team management. With Raina back in the team, Rahul can only bat at No.4, where Manish Pandey has been staking claim for quite some time now.

In the limited opportunities that Pandey has got, he has proved himself and this is the tournament where he can get an extended run. Dinesh Karthik is expected to bat at No.5 and don the big gloves which would leave Deepak Hooda and Rishabh Pant fighting out for specialist batsman's place at No.6.

Washington Sundar and Yuzvendra Chahal are the two spin bowling options at the floodlit Premadasa, where the wicket gets slower as the night progresses. Shardul Thakur after an impressive show in South Africa, is expected to share the new ball with Jaydev Unadkat.

It will be interesting to see if India opt for an extra pacer or an all-rounder. In case the team wants an extra pacer then Mohammed Siraj will come in or else Tamil Nadu all-rounder Vijay Shankar. If the need of the hour is an extra spinner, then Axar Patel is the option at hand.

One thing can be expected from chief coach Ravi Shastri. He will not play anyone, who is not in the team management's larger scheme of things -- that is the World Cup. Last time when India played in the island nation, they pulled off a complete whitewash -- 9-0 across formats -- but this time, it may not be that easy.

Sri Lanka have recently won a tri-nation ODI tournament in Bangladesh and they will take a lot of confidence from the fact. The likes of Dinesh Chandimal, Upul Tharanga, Kusal Mendis, Kusal Perera are all talented but the firepower in their game has been missing for quite some time now.

The bowlers like Lakmal, Chammera, Shanka and their mystery spinner Dananjaya will have their task cut out against a deadly batting line-up. However, T20 is one format where predicting a favourite has always been foolhardy.

The nature of the format enables even the weakest of teams to pose a fight and Chandimal's men won't be an exception.