R Premadasa Stadium, Colombo
March 6, Tuesday; 19:00 IST
Live on DSport channel
The main picture
The first instalment of India vs Sri Lanka cricket in 2018 is here courtesy the Nidahas Trophy, which is a Twenty20 tri-series tournament (also featuring Bangladesh) being played to mark the 70th year of Sri Lankan independence. (Sri Lanka’s tour of India was brought forward to November-December 2017 to accommodate this tourney.)
With the next edition of the ICC World Twenty20 still more than a couple of years away, this tournament does not carry much of a significance for any of these teams. Yet, Sri Lanka have a score to settle against India (having lost 3-0 in India at the end of last year) and Bangladesh, who were convincingly beaten in their two-match T20I home series by the Lankan Lions, do likewise. And these past results provide context to what is the second T20 tri-series of this calendar year.
The Sri Lankan selectors have named a strong squad which features most of their A-listers. India, on the other hand, have gone with a largely second-string squad which is pretty much the same from the one named for the three-T20I series back home last December. Having faced off only in the recent past, these teams will have a fair understanding of each other’s strengths and weaknesses, and this familiarity will be at play come Tuesday night.
Sri Lanka have begun this year on a winning note, registering series wins against the Bangla Tigers in every format during their tour in January and February. And therefore, they are likely to be in a better frame of mind against India compared to when they played the Men in Blue late last year.
All matches of this tournament will be played at the R Premadasa Stadium in Colombo, where India have won six of the seven T20Is they have played here since 2009. Against the home side, India have won both their matches here. The Premadasa Stadium pitch is usually good for batting and in night matches, the dew is a major factor. The weather forecast is for a cloudy evening, with the temperature dropping to 23 degree Celsius.
SL: WWLLL (last five completed T20Is, from left to right)
1st match, India vs Sri Lanka playing 11
For the host, batsman-wicketkeeper Niroshan Dickwella has been dropped and he is likely to be replaced in the XI by Kusal Perera, who missed the Bangladesh T20I series due to a side strain. Angelo Mathews continues to be out with a hamstring injury and Dinesh Chandimal will lead the side in the absence of the regular captain.
Possible SL playing XI vs India: 1 Dinesh Chandimal (c), 2 Upul Tharanga, 3 Danushka Gunathilaka, 4 Kusal Perera (wk), 5 Kusal Mendis, 6 Jeevan Mendis, 7 Dasun Shanaka, 8 Thisara Perera, 9 Suranga Lakmal, 10 Akila Dananjaya, 11 Nuwan Pradeep
With T20 specialists like Suresh Raina and Jaydev Unadkat part of the squad, to go with the other batting and bowling mainstays, India will field a strong playing XI with plenty of options for the captain.
Possible India playing 11: 1 Rohit Sharma (c), 2 Shikhar Dhawan, 3 Suresh Raina, 4 Manish Pandey, 5 Lokesh Rahul, 6 Dinesh Karthik (wk), 7 Vijay Shankar/Deepak Hooda, 8 Axar Patel, 9 Shardul Thakur, 10 Jaydev Unadkat, 11 Yuzvendra Chahal
India, given the quality of their personnel and their hegemony over Sri Lanka, will start as favourite to win this match. (They are also the favourite to win this T20 tri-series.) The home side, though, have quality players of their own and, more importantly, their first-choice personnel (Kusal Mendis, Thisara Perera, Upul Tharanga among others) will be high on confidence following good outings against Bangladesh in February. Therefore, the Lankan Lions will believe that they are playing India at the best possible time.