India commence their new T20 journey towards the next World Cup in 2024 in earnest with a three-match series against Sri Lanka under the stewardship of Hardik Pandya at the Wankhede Stadium today.
Pandya did lead the country in a three-game rain-hit series in New Zealand, won by India 1-0, soon after India’s unsuccessful campaign in the T20 World Cup in Australia.
But that was just testing of the waters and the real sojourn commences from the venue where India had won their second World Cup crown in 2011 under the captaincy of Mahendra Singh Dhoni.
The team picked for the series against Lanka doesn’t have either of the two top batsmen, Rohit Sharma and Virat Kohli, which gives a clear indication of the thinking of the selectors ahead of the next T20 World Cup.
In the absence of the big two in the batting order, it has been left to Pandya and newly appointed vice-captain Suryakumar Yadav, who is in contention to be named as the ICC’s Men’s T20I Player of the Year, to shore up the batting.
Ishan Kishan has been picked and named as the wicketkeeper who can open, while Sanju Samson too is in the mix in the middle of the pack.
There are Deepak Hooda and Washington Sundar in the squad to don the all-rounders’ hats, bowling off spin, along with left-arm spinner Axar Patel.
Competent bowling line-up
With Pandya there to bowl his medium pace stuff as and when needed, the bowling department looks competent in Indian conditions with Yuzvendra Chahal also in the mix as the lone wrist spinner. Arshdeep Singh, Umran Malik and Harshal Patel are the front runners for the medium pacers’ places while Shivam Mavi of Uttar Pradesh and Mukesh Kumar of Bengal have been picked for the first time in the squad.
As far as Sri Lanka are concerned, they too have quite a bit to prove after their none-too-impressive show in the T20 World Cup while going into the mega event as the new Asia Cup champions.
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In fact, Sri Lanka—led by all-rounder Dasun Shanaka—had stopped India’s progress into the final of the UAE event last September which gives extra edge to the match as Pandya and Co will be seeking to avenge that loss.
“No, we’re not looking to settle anything. We want to play good cricket. Yes, we will make them feel like we’re in India, don’t worry about that, I assure and promise you they will feel that they’re playing an international team and that too India in India. We don’t need to go and sledge them, our body language is enough for them to feel a little intimidated which we will do, I promise you,” said Pandya when asked about the revenge angle on the eve of the match.
‘We need to step up’
“We did not have a good T20 World Cup. We need to step up. We are looking forward to doing well in this series. India are one of the better sides. What we need to do is to play good cricket. It’s always tough to beat India in India, but we have a good team,” said Shanaka.
India hold a commanding 17 wins against eight losses record in 26 meetings with the Emerald Islanders in the T20 format over the years.