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T20 series preview: India back in their own den to face Sri Lanka

Favourites Dhoni & Co look to continue winning momentum in Twenty20 format ahead of World T20 in India as three-match series against depleted Sri Lankan side kicks off in Pune today

Pune: It’s not often that the Indian team plays a good number of T20 internationals on the trot. And having played and won three of them in Australia recently, the MS Dhoni-led unit begins what is supposed to be the longest domestic T20 season
with a game against Sri Lanka here today.

India skipper MS Dhoni (right), Yuvraj Singh (left) and Suresh Raina share a light moment during a practice session on the eve of the T20 international match against Sri Lanka in Pune yesterday. PIC/AFP
India skipper MS Dhoni (right), Yuvraj Singh (left) and Suresh Raina share a light moment during a practice session on the eve of the T20 international match against Sri Lanka in Pune yesterday. PIC/AFP

Following their 3-0 series win over Australia, India take on a depleted Sri Lanka for a three-game series; then go to Bangladesh for Asia Cup (potentially four games), and follow it up with the T20 World Cup at home. It can be argued that the BCCI have planned it well this time around, as far as preparing the team for World T20 is concerned.

“It’s good that we will be playing only T20s. It gives everybody a chance to get into groove. Usually, we only play one T20 at a time. So this gives us a chance to get used to the format, as the requirements are different,” Indian skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni said.

Will it be a really good preparation against a Sri Lankan side without Lasith Malinga, Nuwan Kulasekara, Angelo Mathews is something only time would tell.

Dilshan to miss today’s game
Add to that, the absence of Tillakaratne Dilshan for today’s game, and you have one of the weakest Sri Lankan units to have travelled to India in the recent past.

And although both the captains opted to play it down in their pre-match utterances, the difference in the quality of both the sides is obvious. MS Dhoni reminded everybody that in T20 cricket, the game can change in one or two overs, and the likes of Dinesh Chandimal certainly have the ability to do that. But the chances of someone from the home side doing that game-changing job, either with the bat or ball, appear much higher, at least on paper.

India have a couple of interesting choices to make. One would be the all-rounder’s slot, with Hardik Pandya and Pawan Negi being the contenders. “Depending on conditions, if the wicket is on the slower side, we can get Negi in place of Pandya,” Dhoni said.

Dew factor
The skipper doesn’t reckon that the track in Pune would be on the slower side though, making Pandya a favourite for that slot today. Dew could also be a factor for this game, reducing Negi’s chances further.

The other choice also looks quite easy, with Ajinkya Rahane being favourite to replace a rested Virat Kohli at No 3. Manish Pandey is the other contender for that slot, but with the Bangalorean not being part of the World T20 squad, it would be a real surprise if Pandey gets the nod ahead of World Cup-bound Rahane.

It’s not considered wise to pick a winner for a T20 game, but one thing is for sure, man-to-man, India is a far superior unit; and should the hosts play up to their potential, it would be a real challenge for the Sri Lankans to be competitive on today.

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