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Tough ask for Sri Lanka with Malinga still uncertain

Wisden India logo Wisden India 01-03-2016

On the face of it, the India v Sri Lanka game at the Asia Cup T20 2016 at Sher-e-Bangla Stadium in Mirpur on Tuesday (March 1) is a mismatch.

India have done most things right so far. In the opener against Bangladesh, they started slowly but Rohit Sharma and Hardik Pandya exploded towards the close, and the bowling pack did exactly what MS Dhoni would have hoped for to stop the opposition well short. The win over Pakistan was equally comprehensive. Apart from three overs from Mohammad Amir early on and a phase when Mohammad Irfan troubled Yuvraj Singh quite a bit, it was one-way traffic.

Sri Lanka, on the other hand, started well via Tillakaratne Dilshan and Dinesh Chandimal in their first game against UAE but ended up scoring only 129 for 8. And though there was never any real danger of the target being crossed, it took Lasith Malinga’s brilliance to ensure the chase stopped at 115 for 9. Against Bangladesh, with Malinga sitting out, Sri Lanka were overwhelmed.


There was no word on Malinga’s availability for the match, discomfort in the knee making his comeback after three months out last only one game. A team spokesperson said that Malinga was recovering. Logically, keeping the World Twenty20 in mind, he will be fielded only if the team is confident that it won’t be harmful for him in the longer run.

“I don’t really know if he will be fit for the next two games, but it is what it is. We have got only those resources we have to use in the game. We have to do it the hard way,” said Angelo Mathews about Malinga, after the loss to Bangladesh.

India might also be without Rohit Sharma, the inswinging yorker from Amir that sent him on his way on Saturday having left an impact on Rohit’s left big toe. He didn’t train on Monday, though it was announced that there was no fracture and Rohit wasn’t in any pain.

The good news for India, meanwhile, was that Shikhar Dhawan was in fine fettle the day before the game, spending a fair bit of time knocking the ball around in the nets.

India have been on a roll of late. Sri Lanka anything but. The last series either side played was against each other – a three-match affair in India, where India’s batsmen failed spectacularly in the first match in Pune, but the team then bounced back well to take the series 2-1.

The pitches for all but one Asia Cup match have been pacer friendly, much like the track in Pune was, where Kasun Rajitha, Dasun Shanaka and Dushmantha Chameera made the big-name India batting look pedestrian.

“The mistake we did in Pune was that we miscalculated the par score and played a few shots in haste. That’s something we will keep in mind because on such wickets, if you lose one, you have to rebuild again. But the thing about mistakes is that you learn from them, which we have,” said Ashwin, who top-scored for India with an unbeaten 31 in that game.

“Malinga is a champion bowler and it will help any team playing Sri Lanka without him. But one thing we are wary about when it comes to Sri Lanka is that they will always punch above their weight. And in big games, they raise their standard.”

Like they did in Pune. But everything India did in the three games before that in Australia and then the remainder of the series against Sri Lanka and then here at the Asia Cup suggest a team at the top of its game, with most cogs of wheel spinning smoothly.

If Malinga makes a great recovery and gets on to the field, Sri Lanka will wear a stronger look but still be second best on paper. Indeed, it really would require a very below-par show from India for Sri Lanka to end the match as the happier team.

Teams (from)

India: MS Dhoni (capt, wk), R Ashwin, Jasprit Bumrah, Shikhar Dhawan, Harbhajan Singh, Ravindra Jadeja, Virat Kohli, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Pawan Negi, Ashish Nehra, Hardik Pandya, Parthiv Patel, Ajinkya Rahane, Suresh Raina, Rohit Sharma, Yuvraj Singh.

Sri Lanka: Lasith Malinga (capt), Angelo Mathews, Dushmantha Chameera, Dinesh Chandimal (wk), Niroshan Dickwella, Tillakaratne Dilshan, Rangana Herath, Shehan Jayasuriya, Chamara Kapugedara, Nuwan Kulasekara, Thisara Perera, Sachithra Senanayake, Dasun Shanaka, Milinda Siriwardena, Jeffrey Vandersay.

Watch: Bangladesh pitches not helping for World T20 - MS Dhoni

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