DHAKA: On the face of it, the India v Sri Lanka game at the Asia Cup T20 2016 at Sher-e-Bangla Stadium in Mirpur on Tuesday (March 1) pits two sides, who have had contrasting recent form against each other.
India has done most things right so far. In the opener against Bangladesh, the batsmen started slowly but Rohit Sharma and Hardik Pandya exploded towards the close, and the bowling pack did exactly what MS Dhoni would have hoped for to stop the opposition well short. The win over Pakistan was equally comprehensive. Apart from three overs from Mohammad Amir early on and a phase when Mohammad Irfan troubled Yuvraj Singh, it was one-way traffic.
Sri Lanka, on the other hand, started well via Tillakaratne Dilshan and Dinesh Chandimal in its first game against UAE but ended up scoring only 129 for 8. And though there was never any real danger of the target being crossed, it took Lasith Malinga´s brilliance to ensure the chase stopped at 115 for 9. Against Bangladesh, with Malinga sitting out, Sri Lanka was overwhelmed.
There was no word on Malinga´s availability for the match, discomfort in the knee making his comeback after three months out last only one game. A team spokesperson said that Malinga was recovering. Keeping the ICC World Twenty20 2016 in mind, Malinga probably will be fielded only if the team is confident that it won´t be harmful for him in the longer run.
India might also be without Rohit Sharma, the inswinging yorker from Amir that sent him on his way on Saturday having left an impact on Rohit´s left big toe. He didn´t train on Monday, though it was announced that there was no fracture and Rohit wasn´t in any pain.
The good news for India, meanwhile, was that Shikhar Dhawan was in fine fettle the day before the game, spending a fair bit of time knocking the ball around in the nets.
India has been on a roll of late, while Sri Lanka hasn´t had things going its way. The last series either side played was against each other – a three-match affair in India, where India lost in the first match in Pune, but the then bounced back well to take the series 2-1.
The pitches for all but one Asia Cup match have been pacer friendly, much like the track in Pune was, where Kasun Rajitha, Dasun Shanaka and Dushmantha Chameera made the big-name India batting keel over.
Sri Lanka did that in Pune. But everything India did in the three games before that in Australia and then the remainder of the series against Sri Lanka and then here at the Asia Cup suggest a team at the top of its game, with most cogs of wheel spinning smoothly.
If Malinga makes a great recovery and gets on to the field, Sri Lanka will wear a stronger look but still not be the favourite on paper, with India doing all the heavy hitting so far.
India: MS Dhoni (captain & wk), R Ashwin, Jasprit Bumrah, Shikhar Dhawan, Harbhajan Singh, Ravindra Jadeja, Virat Kohli, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Pawan Negi, Ashish Nehra, Hardik Pandya, Parthiv Patel, Ajinkya Rahane, Suresh Raina, Rohit Sharma, Yuvraj Singh.
Sri Lanka: Lasith Malinga (captain), Angelo Mathews, Dushmantha Chameera, Dinesh Chandimal (wk), Niroshan Dickwella, Tillakaratne Dilshan, Rangana Herath, Shehan Jayasuriya, Chamara Kapugedara, Nuwan Kulasekara, Thisara Perera, Sachithra Senanayake, Dasun Shanaka, Milinda Siriwardena, Jeffrey Vandersay. (PPI)