India, who recently climbed the International Cricket Council (ICC) No.1 spot in Twenty20 International (T20I) rankings, were given a reality check when they faced an inexperienced Sri Lankan side in the first T20I at Pune. Sri Lankan seam bowlers—Kasun Rajitha, Dushmantha Chameera and Dasun Shanaka—together have a total of seven T20I matches derailed a fully experienced Indian side. They shared seven wickets between them as Sri Lanka restricted India to a paltry total of 101 in 18.5 overs. Although, the weaknesses of hosts were exposed, Virat Kohli’s absence made a huge difference.
However, MS Dhoni would want to continue with the same side keeping in mind that this is his probably the best playing XI, sans Kohli, and he would want them to play more cricket on the home soil ahead of the World T20 which is being hosted by India next month.
Top Order: The duo of Rohit Sharma and Shikhar Dhawan will mostly retain their position as the openers, despite failing miserably against a debutant. Kasun Rajitha had a fairytale T20I debut when he went on to dismiss India’s top-order in the first T20I. The 22-year-old sent back Rohit and Rahane in the very first over of the match, immediately putting the hosts on the back foot. A couple of overs later, he picked the wicket of Dhawan, leaving India clueless despite being the top-ranked side. However, Rohit and Dhawan will keep that match off their mind and just draw confidence from their recent series against Australia, wherein India whitewashed them in the T20I series and these two had good performances to display.
Middle Order: India’s middle-order is as strong as their top with the presence of T20I specialists like Suresh Raina, Yuvraj Singh and Dhoni. There have been numerous occasions when the top-order had failed, these men had stepped up to ensure India finished on a positive note. The first T20I against Sri Lanka was one of those rare instances when Raina, Yuvraj and Dhoni together failed to deliver. They were dismissed for scores of 20, 10 and 2 respectively and this is no way even close to what they can actually do in a T20 game. If Sri Lanka is going to assume they have managed to keep them quiet for the rest of the series, the visitors will make a huge mistake by doing so. ia is one of those few sides whose batting goes down till No. 9, where Ravichandran Ashwin comes in to bat usually. Dhoni’s dismissal usually sees Ravindra Jadeja walk in to bat, nevertheless in the first T20I at Pune, it was Hardik Pandya who was sent ahead of Jadeja. Pandya has an image of playing those big shots towards the end in domestic cricket and just that was expected of him, but unfortunately, like the senior men, even he failed.
Meanwhile, the bowling will a lot depend on Ashwin who has been India’s pick of the bowlers in the recent times. Although his numbers in the shorter format does not make him look very good, the impact he brings in with his bowling does the job for the skipper. Jasprit Bumrah, who had an excellent Australia series will be under pressure to replicate that feat at home. While Lankan seam bowlers have been on the top in this series, Bumrah is yet to do the same. Ashish Nehra has managed to drag his good form from Down Under to the sub-continent, it was Nehra who had removed the Lankan openers and Dhoni will be only happy watching the veteran doing well.
India’s likely XI for 1st ODI (in batting order): Rohit Sharma, Shikhar Dhawan, Ajinkya Rahane, Suresh Raina, Yuvraj Singh, MS Dhoni (c&wk), Ravindra Jadeja, Ravichandran Ashwin, Ashish Nehra, Jasprit Bumrah