To go with a winning combination or give much-needed game time to Sanju Samson and Manish Pandey? That is the dilemma India are facing ahead of the third and final T20 against Sri Lanka in Pune on Friday.
An inexperienced Sri Lanka was no match for India in Indore and considering that a case could be made for the inclusion of Pandey and Samson. Pandey has played just once in the last three series, including the current one, while Samson is yet to get a game since he made a comeback with the Bangladesh series in November.
India have been experimenting ahead of the T20 World Cup in October-November but these two players are yet to be tested.
On the other hand, the absence of senior pacers has opened the doors for Shardul Thakur and Navdeep Saini to make an impression, which they did in the previous game by sharing five wickets among themselves. Washington Sundar and Shivam Dube, who took the injured Hardik Pandya’s place, have got significant opportunities to show what they are capable of.
After the win in Indore, skipper Virat Kohli spoke on how his team is getting better with each passing game. Most of the players select themselves while he hinted that someone like a Prasidh Krishna could be the surprise package he is looking for the mega event in Australia.
Samson and Pandey must be a tad frustrated to sit out game after game but Friday could be their day. However, what can also not be discounted is the fact that the team management will pick the eleven with the sole aim of winning the series.
The focus will also be on Shikhar Dhawan, who is competing for the second opener’s slot alongside K L Rahul. At the moment, Rahul seems ahead in the race to partner Rohit Sharma in Australia.
Jasprit Bumrah did not have the best of outings in his comeback game on Tuesday and he will be raring to go full tilt in the final game. Thakur and Saini were impressive in Indore. Thakur was brilliant in the death overs while Saini rattled the batsmen with pace and bounce.
With Sri Lanka having several left-handers, spinners Kuldeep Yadav (2-38) and Washington Sundar (1-29) are likely to retain their place, which effectively means that Ravindra Jadeja and Yuzvendra Chahal will have to sit out. Sri Lanka, on the other hand, have a lot to work on if they are to trouble the home team. The batsmen will have to make it count after getting starts, which they were not able to do in the second T20.
All-rounder Isuru Udana being ruled out of the game is also a setback. Their main bowler, as put by skipper Lasith Malinga, did not bowl in Indore after injuring himself during warm-up.
The Sri Lankans can definitely do with some experience in the batting department. Angelo Matthews, who has made a T20 comeback after 16 months, was not picked for the second game in a row. But he could be in the eleven on Friday.
“After that batting performance, everybody has a chance of playing,” said coach Mickey Arthur following the seven-wicket loss.
Arthur, who was appointed as Sri Lanka coach in December last year, on Thursday said the Lankan players need to work on small aspects of the game like match management, game plan and strategy ahead of the ICC T20 World Cup to be held in Australia later this year.
“We have got a set of players who are very skilled and we just need to educate them a little bit in terms of game plans, strategy and match management. We need to make them understand when to take risks and when not,” Arthur said on Thursday ahead of Friday’s third and final T20 International against India here.
“We are working hard on rotating strikes. Those are the little things we are working on. After every outing, we need to get better and better and in eight months’ time we have to be competing (in T20 World Cup),” he added.
Sri Lankan are trailing the three-match series 0-1 after the first T20 was washed out in Guwahati.
India: Virat Kohli (c), Shikhar Dhawan, KL Rahul, Shreyas Iyer, Rishabh Pant (wk), Ravindra Jadeja, Shivam Dube, Yuzvendra Chahal, Kuldeep Yadav, Jasprit Bumrah, Navdeep Saini, Shardul Thakur, Manish Pandey, Washington Sundar, Sanju Samson.
Sri Lanka: Lasith Malinga (c), D Gunathilaka, A Fernando, A Mathews, D Shanaka, K Perera, N Dickwella, Dhananjaya De Silva, I Udana, B Rajapaksa, O Fernando, W Hasaranga, L Kumara, K Mendis, L Sandakan, K Rajitha.
Where: Maharashtra Cricket Association Stadium, Pune
Match Timings: 7:00 PM IST (01:30 PM GMT)
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