Fittingly 2020 is a big year for T20 cricket with a World Cup held in Australia in October. Countries have packed their schedules with T20 matches in preparation and India, currently, second-favourites to lift the trophy behind the hosts, begin their preparation with a three-match series against Sri Lanka.
Virat Kohli’s side enjoyed a wonderful 2019 but will have been disappointed to lose in the semi-final of the 50-over World Cup in England and suffered more defeats in T20 matches than in any other year. So, success in Australia is not a given and is dearly sought after.
India’s T20 form
India lost half of the T20s they played at home venues in 2019 (5). West Indies, South Africa, Australia and Bangladesh all took wins against them. But they are now fine-tuning a side they hope will lift the world crown Down Under in October.
They are seeking to give their fervent fanbase a trophy to make up for the disappointment of losing the 50-over version in the summer. They are taking this series seriously and that would be a concern to the Sri Lankan tourists.
India Team News
Jasprit Bumrah is back in the squad after a back injury has ruled him out since September. Mohammed Shami has enjoyed a superb 2019 with the ball and has earned a rest. The paceman sits out this series to allow Bumrah back into the squad.
Shikhar Dhawan has recovered from a knee injury and comes into the squad in place of the rested Rohit Sharma.
Bhuvneshwar Kumar (hernia) and Deepak Chahar (back) are also absentees.
Sri Lanka’s T20 form
The Lasith Malinga captained side are an unpredictable bunch. In 2019 they beat Pakistan, the ICC number one ranked T20 side but lost eight of their remaining 10 matches during the year. The nation that proudly lifted the 2014 World Twenty20 trophy has only beaten India in five of their 16 T20 encounters.
In 2019 the Sri Lankans have scored at a very modest 7.45 run per over and have been reduced to final totals of 117 and 99 in the recent whitewashing by Australia. Those kinds of scores are nowhere near enough to trouble the best sides in the world and India will eat the Lankans for breakfast if they don’t muscle-up with the bat.
Sri Lanka team news
The experienced duo of Dhananjaya de Silva and Angelo Mathews return to boost the side that was beaten 3-0 by Australia. Neither player has featured in T20 cricket for some time, certainly not since early 2019 in Dhananjaya’s case.
Batsman Shehan Jayasuriya and the injured seam bowler Nuwan Pradeep are the men to make way in a largely inexperienced 16-man squad.
Who will win this series?
India starts as short-priced favourites and rightly so. Sri Lanka has a lack of firepower and it is tough to make a case for them to even take one match in this series. India will be giving everything this year to win the T20 World Cup and will not show any mercy on the tourists.
There are some showers forecast for the first match in Guwahati on Sunday, which could curtail the game. Bear the weather in mind, but still, take India to win all three matches.
Shikhar Dhawan will open with KL Rahul with Virat Kohli following at number three. It is always a wise betting strategy in T20 cricket to back a batsman at the top of the order and then takes a half stakes punt on someone lower down if early wickets are lost.
Shikhar will get all the support as he returns to the international arena. Who knows how India would have done had he not been injured during last summer’s World Cup. When on song, Dhawan can win a T20 game on his own and Indian fans will be pleased to see him back. With Rishabh Pant taking on the role of finisher, he is the half-stakes punt in this series market.
Who takes the wickets?
India will be buoyed by the return of their one-day wonder bowler Jasprit Bumrah. The seamer is worth backing against a Sri Lankan side that won’t be worried by spin.