One more wicket and Sri Lanka could have probably won the One-Day International series. The hosts were annihilated by India's formidable young generation in the first encounter of the tour but came back well in the last two ODIs. Thanks to Deepak Chahar's gritty knock, India somehow managed to escape in the second ODI and sealed the series. However, Sri Lanka kept getting better and better and eventually defeated India in the final game. The focus now shifts to the three-match Twenty20 International series, starting on Sunday (July 25) in Colombo, and India will once again start as the red-hot favourites.
Yes, the second edition of the World Test Championship is about to start, and we also have the ongoing World Cup Super League, but all the major teams will largely be focusing on the shortest format of the game for the next 15-16 months. There are two back-to-back T20 World Cups lined up, with the first one to be played in the UAE and Oman in October-November, and both India and Sri Lanka are far from tournament-ready for two completely contrasting reasons. While Sri Lanka are still looking for some players to fit in their T20I set-up, India have a problem of plenty. And, this will be India's last white-ball assignment prior to the World Cup.
* Suryakumar Yadav and Prithvi Shaw are likely to join the Indian Test team in England. However, the BCCI is yet to confirm whether they will fly in the middle of the T20I series or once it's over.
IS THERE A SPOT LEFT IN INDIA'S TOP ORDER?
The Indian team management persisted with the opening combination of Shikhar Dhawan and Prithvi Shaw in the ODI series and it's highly likely that the two are going to continue in the T20Is as well, despite Devdutt Padikkal and Ruturaj Gaikwad waiting in the wings. Looking ahead to the T20 World Cup, Virat Kohli and Rohit Sharma are certainly going to feature in the top-three but KL Rahul's position is slightly vulnerable, and that's where one of Dhawan, Shaw, Suryakumar Yadav or Ishan Kishan could come in. However, the latter two can also bat in the middle-order and that will work to their advantage.
India skipper Kohli, who is currently in England, wants to open with Rohit in T20Is but it will be difficult for the management to avoid Dhawan and Shaw if they keep batting the way they have been of late. The two were phenomenal for Delhi Capitals in the IPL 2021 and also did well in the ODI series. The likes of Dhawan, Rahul, Kohli and Rohit do get those big scores but have kind of an identical method to go about their business. However, Shaw is someone who takes the attack to the opposition from the word go and that's why he has a way better strike rate than the aforementioned names in the powerplay.
LACK OF FIREPOWER IN MIDDLE OVERS
Amongst the top-10 T20I teams, India have the fourth-worst scoring rate in the middle overs (7-15) since 2020. England, New Zealand and West Indies are the only sides with a scoring rate of more than eight in each of the three phases in this time period, while India have solid numbers in the powerplay and death overs. Talking about the showpiece event, Rishabh Pant, Hardik Pandya and Ravindra Jadeja are most likely going to take the last three spots in the top-seven and will mostly operate in the second half of the innings. The three of them are clean strikers but India need someone in the middle order who's good against spinners.
The main reason India haven't done well in the middle overs is because of the way they have tackled spin. Since 2020, India have the second-worst scoring rate (7.4) and balls per boundary (10) against spinners after Australia (7.1, 10.1). Suryakumar, Kishan and Sanju Samson have decent numbers against spinners since 2020 and these three are going to be crucial against Sri Lanka who have a couple of quality spinners in their set-up. The team management would also want Hardik to get back to his best as soon as possible. The all-rounder didn't have a great ODI series and has surprisingly struggled against spinners of late in T20s.
TIME FOR CHAKRAVARTHY TO PROVE HIS METTLE
Indian spinners have the second-worst economy rate (8.6) and the worst average (34.2) and strike rate (23.9) in T20Is since 2020. The likes of Yuzvendra Chahal, Kuldeep Yadav and Rahul Chahar have leaked runs at an economy of more than nine and the time is right to finally unleash Varun Chakravarthy. The mystery spinner from Tamil Nadu would have already made his T20I debut if not for some issues related to his fitness. Chakravarthy has been Kolkata Knight Riders' premier spinner since the last two editions and is someone who could bowl at any stage of the game.
The 29-year-old was impressive in the last IPL season which was played in the UAE, picking up 17 wickets at an economy rate of 6.84. Chakravarthy brings something different and could prove to be India's X-factor in the upcoming mega event. Chahal and Kuldeep did well in the ODIs but the management would want to see more of in-form Rahul Chahar in T20Is. In the pace department, Bhuvneshwar Kumar needs to play more games, while Chetan Sakariya could make his T20I debut. The left-arm seamer made his ODI debut on Friday and picked up 2/34. However, India could go with Deepak Chahar too if they want more depth in the batting line-up.
AND, WHAT ABOUT SRI LANKA?
Sri Lanka have won only five of their last 24 T20Is since 2019 and have the least win percentage (21.7) amongst the top-10 teams. Talking about the top-10 teams, Sri Lanka are ranked 10th and will have to through to the T20 World Cup qualifiers if they want to feature in the main event. Just to give you some perspective, Sri Lanka have the worst scoring rate (7.3), average (18.2), balls per wicket (15) and balls per boundary (8.2) in T20Is since 2019. Then, the island nation also have the worst bowling average (28) and strike rate (20.2) in this time frame.
Not many things have gone in Sri Lanka's favour of late but they will try to draw some confidence from their win in the final ODI. There's no news on Wanindu Hasaranga's availability (muscle tear in his leg), but Sri Lanka have Akila Dananjaya and Praveen Jayawickrama who took three wickets each in the third ODI and triggered a major collapse. Meanwhile, in-form Avishka Fernando, Bhanuka Rajapaksa and Dhananjaya de Silva will be Sri Lanka's key batters. The hosts will have to be at the top of their game if they want to challenge India in this format.
Sri Lanka: Avishka Fernando, Lahiru Udara (wk), Bhanuka Rajapaksa, Pathum Nissanka, Dhananjaya de Silva, Dasun Shanaka (c), Chamika Karunaratne, Isuru Udana, Akila Dananjaya, Binura Fernando, Dushmantha Chameera.
India: Shikhar Dhawan (c), Prithvi Shaw, Suryakumar Yadav, Sanju Samson, Ishan Kishan (wk), Hardik Pandya, Krunal Pandya, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Deepak Chahar/Chetan Sakariya, Varun Chakravarthy, Rahul Chahar.