Pramod Ananth
02 Jan 2023 | 11:27 AM

Hardik Pandya out to further prove T20Is captaincy credentials against Sri Lanka

India are yet to lose any of the five matches the all-rounder has been in charge

A few surprise call-ups have raised some eyebrows in India’s T20 International (T20I) squad, but that nevertheless presents an opportunity to widen their talent pool. It comes as little surprise that Hardik Pandya has been named the captain of the side with Rohit Sharma, KL Rahul and Virat Kohli among other senior players rested for the series.

With one eye on the 50-over World Cup next year, the T20Is give fringe players an opportunity to stay in the reckoning and someday in the next year or so, graduate to playing One-Day International (ODI) cricket for India. That is what the likes of Rahul Tripathi, Ruturaj Gaikwad, Shivam Mavi and Mukesh Kumar picked in the T20I squad against Sri Lanka would be hoping.

Selection of Mavi is really interesting. The Uttar Pradesh pacer has had his fair share of injuries over the last few years, and despite his inconsistent performances in the Indian Premier League (IPL), has more often than not found a buyer in the auction. 

Pandya-led Gujarat Titans (GT) secured Mavi’s services for INR 6 crore this time around from a base price of INR 40 lakh, for a fast bowler who since IPL 2020 has managed just 25 wickets at 26.9 in 23 matches. Bengal pacer Mukesh Kumar though bowled a superb spell for India A on their tour of Bangladesh that saw him pick up 6 for 40 in Sylhet and while his T20 numbers are not staggering, the 29-year-old, who was also part of the ODI squad against South Africa, has surprised everyone with his inclusion, more so than Mavi!

However, the question remains, will Shubman Gill or Tripathi get a T20I debut? Gill has been in terrific form in ODIs and is coming off the back of an impressive century in the Test series against Bangladesh, while Tripathi has been with the Indian side for quite some time now and given his prowess against both pace and spin could be a welcome addition especially in the middle overs.

Do India go in with Ishan Kishan at the top? Since his last fifty- against South Africa in June 2022 – the southpaw has scored just 136 runs at 17 from eight outings at a strike-rate of 119, but his double ton against Bangladesh in the ODI series might perhaps give him the edge. 

With no Bhuvneshwar Kumar, this gives an opportunity for Arshdeep Singh to lead this pace attack, alongside Umran Malik and Harshal Patel. The left-arm pacer has been a welcome addition to the squad. No bowler has picked up more wickets (33) than Arshdeep since his debut in July last year, among players from full-member nations.

Moreover, Arshdeep (73.1) has bowled fewer overs than Haris Rauf (82), Ish Sodhi (80.4) and Shadab Khan (75.4) in this period but has ended up with more wickets then them.

With Hardik potentially seen as India’s white-ball captain, especially T20Is, this series provides him with yet another opportunity to prove his credentials as leader. Having led GT to their maiden title in his first season in charge, Hardik is yet to lose as T20I as captain of the Indian side as well.

Suryakumar Yadav had a memorable 2022, that saw him amass 1,164 runs at a strike-rate in excess of 187, that has seen him being elevated to the position of vice-captain for this series. He too will be out to prove that he can do it consistently, starting with this series. 

India likely XI: Ruturaj Gaikwad/Shubman Gill, Ishan Kishan (wk), Sanju Samson/Rahul Tripathi, Suryakumar Yadav, Hardik Pandya (c), Deepak Hooda, Washington Sundar, Harshal Patel, Yuzvendra Chahal, Arshdeep Singh, Umran Malik

The latest edition of Lanka Premier League (LPL) has gotten a few Sri Lankan players back in the reckoning. The top two run-getters in the tournament Avishka Fernando and Sadeera Samarawickrama have returned to the squad. Samarawickrama who played a T20I against India last year has in fact pipped the experienced Dinesh Chandimal. Chandimal managed just one fifty in 11 innings in the LPL this season, scoring 287 runs at a strike-rate of 127.

Chamika Karunaratne too has returned to the side after a decent tournament with seven wickets an economy rate of seven and with the bat he played a couple of cameos down the order ending with 109 runs, striking at over 162.

Dunith Wellelage could be in line to make his T20I debut while Nuwan Thushara too could add to his four T20I caps after finishing as the best Sri Lankan bowler in the LPL with 14 wickets at 18. 

Otherwise, Sri Lanka have not made any major changes, with them likely to stick with the core they had in the Asia Cup and the T20 World Cup 2022.

Sri Lanka likely XI: Kusal Mendia, Pathum Nissanka, Charith Asalanka/Dhananjaya de Silva, Sadeera Samarawickrama, Bhanuka Rajapaksa, Dasun Shanaka (c), Chamika Karunaratne, Wanindu Hasaranga, Kasun Rajitha/Dunith Wellalage, Lahiru Kumara, Pramod Madushan/Nuwan Thushara

Sri Lanka have not won a T20I over India since 2016. In fact, they have lost 10 of their last 11 games here with one being washed out. The surface at the Wankhede Stadium has produced high-scoring fixtures in the past. In fact, in the last five ODIs, only once has a team not breached the 200-run mark batting first and that incidentally that was Sri Lanka, who managed just 135. We could be in for another high-scoring contest.

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