Injuries to key players such as skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni and Rohit Sharma is giving them the jitters but India would still be firm favourites when they take on a depleted and struggling Sri Lanka in their penultimate league encounter of the Asia Cup Twenty20 cricket tournament, in Mirpur on Tuesday.
Despite injuries, India have the edge against the island nation, whom they beat 2-1 in a recent home series. The reason being a possible injury to Lankan captain and primary strike bowler Lasith Malinga, whose knee problem has again flared up and has put his further participation in the tournament in doubt.
“I don’t know if Lasith will be available in the next two games as it is a fitness related issue. His injury has again flared up,” stand-in captain Angelo Mathews said after their loss against Bangladesh.
More than the challenge posed by defending World T20 champions, the Indian team will like to set their house in order as far injuries are concerned.
Skipper Dhoni is playing through pain due to the back spasms, which has prevented him from taking part in most of the training sessions.
If that wasn’t enough, Shikhar Dhawan was ruled unfit before the last game against Pakistan, reportedly with a niggle in his left ankle.
There is speculation that considering Dhawan’s questionable technique in conditions where the ball bounces as well as there is seam and swing, the team management found Ajinkya Rahane more reliable at the top of the order.
If Dhawan’s injury wasn’t enough, the latest blow has been Rohit Sharma getting hit on the left toe by a crushing yorker from Mohammed Amir in the game against Pakistan.
According to information, a precautionary X-ray has been done and luckily no fracture has been detected.
But with both openers being injured, it does put a question-mark on the playing XI, which has been more or less same in the last eight T20 games.
For the record, India has won seven out of the eight games they have played this year.
After the Pakistan game, the possibility of a new opening combination cannot be totally ruled out. It could well be Parthiv Patel walking alongside Rahane, in case both Rohit and Shikhar are ruled out of the Lanka tie.
Parthiv has usually opened in the T20 format for most of the franchises that he has played for.
The strip used for the Sri Lanka versus Bangladesh match yesterday did not have the demons of the Indo—Pak game where there was vicious movement, which could also be credited to Amir’s individual brilliance.
In case, there is less juice in the pitch, a half-fit Dhawan can also come into the picture. On pitches where there is minimum lateral movement, Dhawan’s game, based on plonking his front foot and hitting through the line, may prove to be ideal.
Virat Kohli has got into the groove with a memorable 49 against Pakistan. But Suresh Raina, who again looked suspect against fast and short balls, will like to get his confidence back, which has been badly shaken by Amir, during the torrid little time he negotiated in the last match.
Yuvraj Singh may not have got too many runs but his gritty effort had been acknowledged by none other than the skipper and he will like to get a big knock before the start of the World T20.
Dhoni hasn’t been required to strike it big in the last two games but given the fickle nature of the format, his much admired finishing skills might be needed any time.
In the bowling department, there aren’t too many issues but it will be interesting to see whether Ashish Nehra, who has now played 8 T20 Internationals in just over a month, is given a break.
In that case, the option for team management is Bhuvneshwar Kumar, who has been inconsistent to say the least in the past one year.
The two youngsters — Hardik Pandya and Jasprit Bumrah — have brought new solidity in the T20 team with their performances. Especially Pandya, who has contributed both with the bat and ball in the two matches that he has played here.
Bumrah has also impressed with the kind of pace he has generated from an unusual action.
In the spin department Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja are firmly entrenched as far as their places in the XI are concerned.
Harbhajan Singh and Pawan Negi will have to sit out unless Ravi Shastri and Dhoni are in a mood to experiment, which has not been the case so far.
For Sri Lanka, which has been hit hard by the retirements of legends, the injury to skipper Malinga comes as a big blow — more so after their 23-run loss at the hands of Bangladesh, which has seriously jeopardised their chances of qualifying for the final.
India: Mahendra Singh Dhoni (captain), Shikhar Dhawan, Rohit Sharma, Virat Kohli, Suresh Raina, Yuvraj Singh, Hardik Pandya, Jasprit Bumrah, Ravichandran Ashwin, Ravindra Jadeja, Ashish Nehra, Ajinkya Rahane, Harbhajan Singh, Pawan Negi, Parthiv Patel, Bhuvneshwar Kumar.
Sri Lanka: Lasith Malinga (captain), TM Dilshan, Dinesh Chandimal, Shehan Jayasuriya, Angelo Mathews, Chamara Kapugedara, Nuwan Kulasekara, Dasun Chanaka, Dushmantha Chameera, Milinda Siriwardana, Rangana Herath, Niroshan Dickwella, Thisara Perera, Jeffrey Vandersay, Sachithra Senanayeke.