Hardik Pandya and Suryakumar Yadav were among the few bright spots for India’s men’s cricket team in a largely forgettable 2022. The duo will start the New Year at the helm of affairs of the T20I team as India looks to continue its enviable record in bilateral series.
Hardik, the captain, with Surya as his deputy will shepherd a young India squad against neighbour Sri Lanka in a three-match T20I series, starting at the Wankhede Stadium on Tuesday.
In a year when the focus will primarily be on ODIs, with T20Is taking a backseat, the only aspect that will spice up the contest is the events in the United Arab Emirates on Wednesday.
After bowing out of the Asia Cup with a loss to Sri Lanka in September, India’s young brigade will be keen to avenge the loss with a whitewash in the series. While the captain stressed on India not looking to “settle any scores”, he added that India will ensure the Sri Lankans feel like “playing India in India”.
The task, though, will be easier said than done. Sri Lanka is an extremely competitive unit, especially in the subcontinent. It will be relying on its spin twins of Wanindu Hasaranga and Maheesh Theekshana to use their prowess and utilise the Indian Premier League experience to pressurise the Indian batters.
Pathum Nissanka and Kusal Mendis will be eager to continue their good work at the top of the order. In addition, a fit Avishka Fernando will further bolster the islanders’ batting armoury.
India, on the other hand, will hope that Ishan Kishan will carry on his exploits from the ODIs in Bangladesh at the top of the order. It will be interesting to see who his opening partner would be. If India’s pre-match training was any indication, Shubman Gill is likely to be handed his debut in the shortest format.
Similarly, India will also face a conundrum in selecting its bowling combination. Yuzvendra Chahal, the lone leggie in the squad, faces stiff competition from spin-bowling all-rounders Axar Patel and Washington Sundar.
Arshdeep Singh will be leading the pace attack and Umran Malik’s raw pace all but makes him a certainty. Whether India prefers Harshal Patel as the specialst death bowler or hands a debut to Shivam Mavi or Mukesh Kumar will be a point to ponder for Hardik and head coach Rahul Dravid.
The teams (from):
India: Hardik Pandya (Capt.), Suryakumar Yadav (Vice-Capt.), Ishan Kishan (wk), Ruturaj Gaikwad, Shubman Gill, Deepak Hooda, Rahul Tripathi, Sanju Samson (wk), Washington Sundar, Yuzvendra Chahal, Axar Patel, Arshdeep Singh, Harshal Patel, Umran Malik, Shivam Mavi and Mukesh Kumar.
Sri Lanka: Dasun Shanaka (Capt.), Wanindu Hasaranga (Vice-Capt.), Pathum Nissanka, Avishka Fernando, Sadeera Samarawickrama (wk), Kusal Mendis (wk), Bhanuka Rajapaksa, Charith Asalanka, Dhananjaya de Silva, Ashen Bandara, Maheesh Theekshana, Chamika Karunaratne, Dilshan Madushanka, Kasun Rajitha, Dunith Wellalage, Pramod Madushan, Lahiru Kumara and Nuwan Thushara.
Match starts at 7 p.m.