T20 series: Formidable India eye whitewash against Sri Lanka
By Nikhil Bapat
Mumbai, Dec 23 (PTI) With the series already in their pocket, India will look to give some of the bench players a chance but there will be no let-up in the intensity as they eye a complete whitewash against Sri Lanka in the third and final T20I here tomorrow.
For the islanders, it has been a forgetful year, and the two recent defeats against India have just added to their misery.
While the hosts thrashed Sri Lanka by 93 runs in the first match at Cuttack, they outclassed them by 88 runs in Indore to seal the series. The visitors also lost the ODIs 1-2 and drew a blank in the Test series held earlier.
On the other hand, India have been cruising across all formats and would surely look to end a successful year with another thumping win ahead of a tough tour of South Africa where they play three Tests, six ODIs and three T20s.
The constant one-sided results may not be an ideal preparation for India for the upcoming tour, but the positive thing is that in absence of seniors including inspirational captain Virat Kohli, the youngsters have taken responsibility and delivered in the T20s and ODIs.
Stand-in skipper Rohit Sharma, who equalled David Miller's record of the fastest ever T20 century during his 43 -ball 118-run innings in Indore, is in peak form and he would love to continue his good run at his home ground.
Be it K L Rahul, Shreyas Iyer, Manish Pandey or the experienced campaigner Mahendra Singh Dhoni -- all have chipped in when needed and coach Ravi Shastri would expect them to fire big time tomorrow.
Especially Rahul, who already has two fifties to his credit, would surely want to add one more to his kitty and make a strong statement before the team's upcoming tour.
Iyer, the local boy, scored in the opening game, but he needs to stay at the wicket and convert his starts to big knocks.
India has promoted Dhoni up the order yesterday and the former captain justified the team's decision by scoring at a brisk pace. The same can be expected in Mumbai if the openers give a flying start.
This Indian batting line up can destroy any bowling attack and Sri Lanka's toothless bowlers just provide them more opportunity to be devastating and ruthless.
The credit for preparing good bench strength should be given to the Indian Premier League and the robust domestic circuit.
Wrist spinners Yuzvendra Chahal and Kuldeep Yadav, who starred last night too, have cemented their place by picking up regular wickets after their international debuts.
The selectors would be seeing how Saurashtra pacer Jaydev Unadkat performs, as he can be an important cog in the scheme of things after veteran pacer Ashish Nehra called it a day.
Hardik Pandya and Jasprit Bumrah have already cemented their place in the team and a good game for them will boost their confidence ahead of a gruelling tour.
But having won the series, the team management may decide to play some young guns like Basil Thampi, Washington Sundar and Deepak Hooda.
Meanwhile, Sri Lanka have been dealt a severe blow with Angelo Mathews being ruled out of the match due to a hamstring injury. In his absence, senior pros like Upul Tharanga will have to take responsibility and deliver.
Kusal Perera's 37-ball 77 in the second T20I gave a huge boost to the team and he would look for another good innings tomorrow.
Their bowlers too have failed to put up a spirited show and skipper Thisara Perera would like his men to at-least give a fight and reverse the trend.
All bowlers including Nuwan Pradeep, Mathews and Thisara himself have leaked plenty of runs and they need to pull their socks to stop the Indian Juggernaut and come up with something special.
Overall the Wankhede wicket has favored the batsmen in the past but scores as high as 190 have been chased in T20 games here. Considering the form of Indian batsmen spectators can see another run-feast tomorrow.
India: Rohit Sharma (C), K L Rahul, Shreyas Iyer, Manish Pandey, Dinesh Karthik, MS Dhoni, Hardik Pandya, Washington Sundar, Yuzvendra Chahal, Kuldeep Yadav, Deepak Hooda, Jasprit Bumrah, Mohammad Siraj, Basil Thampi and Jaydev Unadkat.
Sri Lanka: Thisara Perera(C), Upul Tharanga, Angelo Mathews, Kusal Janith Perera, Danushka Gunathilaka, Niroshan Dickwella, Asela Gunaratne, Sadeera Samarawickrama, Dasun Shanaka, Chaturanga de Silva, Sachith Pathirana, Dananjaya De Silva, Nuwan Pradeep, Vishwa Fernando and Dusmantha Chameera.
Match starts at 1900Hrs IST