Following mixed fortunes in the previous two matches, India will take on hosts Sri Lanka in their third league game of the ongoing Nidahas Trophy in Colombo on Monday. Having beaten by the same opponent in the tournament opener on last Tuesday (March 6), the Rohit Sharma-led Indian team needs to be extra careful in this particular fixture, especially after Bangladesh's surprise win over the hosts on Saturday night. Currently, all the three teams have one victory under their belt and any slip-up at this juncture can make the equations for a spot in the final tougher.
So far in this T20 competition, no team has managed to defend a score successfully on that flat R. Premadasa wicket. Even on the other day, a target of 216 has been chased down successfully. Besides, there are predictions of a thunderstorm around Colombo in the evening on Monday. So, the captain who will win the toss, will look to bat second. Knowing the target is going to be a huge advantage here.
Meanwhile, the Indian think-tank will look to emulate the all-round show, which was evident during their six-wicket victory over Bangladesh in the previous game. Also, the relatively inexperienced Indian bowling department needs to find a way to stop the high-flying Lankan batting line-up, especially the in-form Kusal Perera, who has hit back to back half-centuries in the tournament, with a strike-rate of 164.70.
According to Jaydev Unadkat, the Indian left-arm pacer, on a wicket like this, variation is the key to tame the attacking batsmanship.
"Variations are the most important part of the game. To play with batsman's mind, you need variations. When the batsman is expecting something and you do it differently, you are [then] successful as a bowler," Unadkat said in the pre-match press conference on Sunday.
"The wicket looks very good from batting from ball one. I haven't played here before in limited-overs cricket. Ball is coming on nicely, there's good bounce and that gives batsmen the freedom to go from ball one. Variations are not just about bowling different balls, it is important to vary the lengths. Not allowing them to premeditate a shot," he further added.
When it comes to batting, India seem to have things pretty much under control. Though Rohit's off-form is still a concern but the presence of other experienced T20 batters like Shikhar Dhawan (top scorer in the tournament so far with 145 runs in two matches), Suresh Raina, Manish Pandey, Dinesh Karthik provide a lot of stability in this side. Also, eyes will be on the youngsters like Rishabh Pant, Washinton Sundar and Vijay Shankar.
Overall, if the weather holds on, this fixture promises to be another closely-fought one.
About the Author
Sandipan Banerjee is a Kolkata-based independent cricket journalist by profession and admirer of this great sport by nature. He tweets at @im_sandipan.