India will play Sri Lanka in the first T20I of their three match series on Thursday, January 5th, at the Maharashtra Cricket Association Stadium in Pune. The match is scheduled to begin at 7 pm local time.
It kicks off the white ball tour of India by Sri Lanka, with this series followed by three ODIs, all part of the build up to the World Cup later this year with the Indians being the host.
Head to head
The two teams have met 26 times before in T20I cricket and the current record stands 17 wins to India, 8 to Sri Lanka, and one match ended in no result.
Sri Lanka have not won a T20I soil on Indian soil since 2015. And when they visited the country for a three match series last February, they were whitewashed.
The last time they met
One of those Sri Lankan victories came the last time they met, which was in an Asia Cup knock-out game in Dubai last September. They won the match by six wickets off the penultimate ball and went on to win the Cup, beating Pakistan in the final.
Differing World Cup Fortunes
In the subsequent T20I World Cup, both teams experienced differing fortunes.
Sri Lanka were made to enter the first qualifying competition, where they suffered a shock defeat to Namibia, but eventually qualified for the Super 12 stage, where they finished second in Group 1.
India topped Group 2, but their campaign came to a screeching halt when they were thrashed by ten wickets by England in the semi-final.
That defeat, and more particularly the manner of it, has led to much soul searching among those responsible for Indian cricket with calls for the whole approach to T20I cricket to be revised and the conservative, safety first approach to be ditched for a more aggressive style.
Pune the centre of the Indian sporting world
The T20I will not be the only major sporting event in Pune this week. The city is also hosting the Maharashtra Open, the only major ATP senior tennis event to be played on the Indian sub-continent.
And unlike in previous years, this time organisers have managed to attract a top quality field to the event, headed by the world number 17, Marin Cilic of Croatia.
New Look India
The Indian team that will take the field on Thursday is almost unrecognisable from that that ended their World Cup campaign.
As part of the strategy to manage player workloads, Rohit Sharma, Virat Kohli, and Shreyas Iyer have all been rested for this series, Ravindra Jadeja and Jasprit Bumrah are being given more time to recover from their various injuries, whilst Rishabh Pant was dropped even before his unfortunate car accident which could see him out of action for up to six months.
And with the likes of Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Ravichandran Ashwin, and Mohammed Shami also unavailable, it gives the Indian selectors the chance to look at some fresh faces.
Hardik Pandya will captain the side with Suryakumar Yadav, the leading run scorer in T20I cricket in 2022, his vice.
Ishan Kishan, who scored the fastest ODI double century in history against Bangladesh last month, will take the gloves but also is expected to open the batting with Ruturaj Gaikwad his likely partner.
Arshdeep Singh, who has recently been nominated as ICC Emerging Player of the Year, will lead the pace attack and he will be supported by Umran Malik, Shivam Mavi, and Mukesh Kumar.
Sri Lanka have a more settled and experienced team led by Dasun Shanaka, but they are very inconsistent in T20I cricket as their campaigns in both the Asia Cup and World Cup showed.
They can be capable of a good result one day, then suffer a shocker the next.
The pitch in Pune has the reputation of being an excellent batting track.
In terms of the toss, in the three previous T20Is played there, the side batting first one once with the chasing team successful on the two other occasions.
Whilst there will be some uncertainty about what this new look India can do, playing at home they will still be expected to win.
What will be of almost as much interest is how they approach the game and whether any lessons have been learned. Is this a Brave New World or False Dawn?
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