Chance to check combination as India take on Sri Lanka
Mirpur: Their confidence at its lowest ebb after continuous failures, a beleaguered India would look to pick up the pieces and make a fresh start when they take on an upbeat Sri Lanka in their first warm-up game of the ICC World Twenty20 here Monday.
While the tournament proper will begin for India on March 21 against arch-rivals Pakistan, the two warm-up ties will provide captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni with a chance to sort out his playing combination before the real action begins.
The warm-up tie gives the team a chance to try out all 15 players in the squad. Therefore while all the batsmen can expect to get a hit in match situation, the bowlers will also get an opportunity to prove their worth to the skipper.
Also the fact that Indian players, smarting from disastrous tours of South Africa and New Zealand besides the failed Asia Cup campaign, will be playing competitive T20 after five months will also help them adapt quickly having last played a T20 international in October against Australia.
The result of the match is of little consequence as various combinations are expected to be tried out. The most interesting aspect will be the opening combination in this format.
Sikhar Dhawan and Rohit Sharma are a regular opening pair in ODIs. But Rohit`s initial struggle against white kookaburra in the 50-over format is well documented.
T20 would not give the Mumbaikar enough time to settle down. Ajinkya Rahane, who has successfully opened for Rajasthan Royals in the Indian Premier League, might just partner Dhawan in such a scenario.
If the last match of the Asia Cup against Afghanistan is an indicator, then Rahane has a bright chance of opening the batting for India.
Yuvraj Singh, one of India`s proven match-winners, will be making a comeback along with Suresh Raina, who is also returning to the national team after being dumped from the Asia Cup squad on grounds of indifferent form.
But Raina has been one among India`s better T20 batsmen -- the only one from the country to score an international T20 century.
Skipper Dhoni, having recovered from a side strain, would like a couple of good knocks under his belt while Virat Kohli would also aim to get into the groove before Pakistan come calling.
The warm up match against Sri Lanka will certainly give both the left-handers the much needed confidence they had lost due to string of poor scores in earlier international matches.
The likes of Ambati Rayudu and Stuart Binny will aim to keep their captain interested for a place in the side.
A quickfire 50 off 30 balls from Rayudu or a couple of wickets and a cameo from Binny might prompt the team management to think differently although they haven`t shown any inclination towards being flexible with team combination.
"We might not have played a lot of T20 internationals but the IPL exposure will certainly help us. We need to play as a unit in order to do well,`` team`s premier batsman Virat Kohli told the mediapersons during an open session at the team hotel yesterday.
India`s bowling certainly is their problem area in the slam-bang version of the game.
India do not have bowlers who have enough variations to keep the batsman guessing in the back 10 of a T20 game.
Mohammed Shami is India`s strike bowler but he has proved to be quite expensive in the death overs as far as ODIs are concerned. Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Mohit Sharma have also never been a problem for top-class international batsman.
This brings the focus on Varun Aaron -- India`s fastest bowler at the moment. While there`s no denying that Aaron has the pace, he is inconsistent and it has already been proved in the few IPL matches that he has played for the Delhi Daredevils.
A lot will depend on how well Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja bowl on slowish tracks. With both being more than capable batsmen, they are an automatic choice in the playing XI.
Sri Lanka will be very upbeat, having won the Asia Cup and the impasse on Players` Payment issue with Sri Lanka Cricket (SLC) on the verge of end.
Young Dinesh Chandimal will have some of the greatest players of modern era like Mahela Jayawardene, Kumar Sangakkara to teach him a few tricks on the leadership issues.
Lasith Malinga, who has been a terror for the batsmen in IPL, will be again asking questions to the Indian willow wielders.
In all a victory will boost the fledgling confidence of an Indian team that has been on the wane for some time now.
India: Mahendra Singh Dhoni (captain), Varun Aaron, Stuart Binny, Shikhar Dhawan, Ravindra Jadeja, Virat Kohli, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Amit Mishra, Ajinkya Rahane, Ravichandran Ashwin, Suresh Raina, Mohammad Shami, Mohit Sharma, Rohit Sharma, Yuvraj Singh.
Sri Lanka: Dinesh Chandimal (captain), Tillakaratne Dilshan, Rangana Herath, Mahela Jayawardena, Nuwan Kulasekara, Suranga Lakmal, Lasith Malinga, Angelo Mathews, Ajantha Mendis, Kusal Perera, Thisara Perera, Seekkuge Prasanna, Kumar Sangakkara, Sachithra Senanayake, Lahiru Thirimanne
Match starts 7pm (IST).