India vs Sri Lanka: After stealing thunder Down Under, MS Dhoni in familiar territory
The historic T20I series win against Australia came as a huge sigh of relief for Indian skipper MS Dhoni. The swords were out after India had lost four consecutive ODIs, and a third consecutive ODI series under his captaincy, but the Men in Blue bounced back to get their skipper out of a precarious situation.
While youngsters Jasprit Bumrah and Hardik Pandya were hailed for their performances, the main reason behind India's brilliance in the series was due to the comeback of Suresh Raina and Yuvraj Singh. While the former was consistent with the bat in all three matches, the southpaw's cameo in the final match along with providing crucial breakthroughs turned out to be critical for Dhoni's side.
In the ODI series, there was a lot of pressure on Dhoni, since he was the only established finisher India had, and even though he would have wanted to bat higher up, there was no choice since the middle-order was inexperienced. Right throughout the ODI series, India lost most of the matches in the last 15 overs, where batsmen failed to capitalize on the hard work done by the top-order.
Now that India take on Sri Lanka for yet another T20I series, with Raina, Yuvraj's comeback, the Indian middle-order looks a formidable one, and Dhoni has more opportunities to express himself with the bat.
The Indian batsmen are in superb form and despite Virat Kohli being rested for the three-match series, Men in Blue have enough firepower at the top of the order to trouble the Lankans. Rohit Sharma is in the form of his life and after scoring two centuries Down Under, missing the third one by just one run, the Mumbaikar is expected to score heaps of runs against the Sri Lankans as well.
The best part is that India have the privilege of playing Suresh Raina, Yuvraj Singh, Hardik Pandya, Ravindra Jadeja, who are all-rounders and can make significant contributions with the bat.
In the bowling department, it's a chance for Indian spinners to once again prove their supremacy on Indian tracks. R Ashwin, who spoilt Kumar Sangakkara's farewell series when the Kohli-led squad beat them on their own soil last year, will once again spearhead the spin attack and considering the way he bowled in 2015, the Lankans are expected to have a very tough time combating his world class spin.
On the other hand, the Lankan squad comprises plenty of new names and in the absence of Angelo Mathews and Lasith Malinga, Dinesh Chandimal and his boys have an uphill task ahead of them to put a good show against India.
Chandimal, Tillakaratne Dilshan, Thisara Perera, Sachithra Senanayake are the only known names in the 15-man squad and how inexperienced is their pace attack can be ascertained from the fact that the selectors had to recall pacer Dilhara Fernando for the tour. The 36-year-old last played a T20I in 2011.
Even though India's No. 1 ranking is at stake, Sri Lankans will have to pull off a miracle to shift India from the top in the shortest format of the game.
India: Rohit Sharma, Shikhar Dhawan, Ajinkya Rahane, Manish Pandey, Suresh Raina, Yuvraj Singh, MS Dhoni (c & wk), Hardik Pandya, Ravindra Jadeja, Ravichandran Ashwin, Ashish Nehra, Jasprit Bumrah, Harbhajan Singh, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Pawan Negi
Sri Lanka: Dinesh Chandimal (c & wk), Tillakaratne Dilshan, Seekkuge Prasanna, Milinda Siriwardana, Danushka Gunathilaka, Thisara Perera, Dasun Shanaka, Asela Gunaratne, Chamara Kapugedera, Dushmantha Chameera, Dilhara Fernando, Kasun Rajitha, Binura Fernando, Sachithra Senanayake, Jeffrey Vandersay, Niroshan Dickwella