India v Sri Lanka: First T20 International Preview

Batsman faces bowler in front of packed cordon

Jonhenry Wilson previews the first of three T20 Internationals between to be contested India and Sri Lanka.

While unable to achieve a whitewash, India were convincing enough in this month's ODI series to all but insist they will also run away with the subsequent three-match T20I affair against the same opposition.

Sri Lanka will be mindful they haven't one a T20I since April - a seven-month stretch that includes defeats in the shortest format to India, Pakistan and Bangladesh.

India v Sri Lanka | Wednesday, 20 December | Barabati Stadium, Cuttack | 15:30

To Win Match
India 1/5 | Tie 35/1 | Sri Lanka 7/2 *
*Forecast odds. Prices to be included once event is priced up. 

Virat Kohli's rest will continue, with Rohit Sharma's stint as stand-in limited-overs captain to continue. Like he did in the ODIs, Sharma needs to ensure that his primary role with the bat isn't hindered by the additional responsibility.

The uncapped Deepak Hooda has been included in the batting ranks on the back of impressive Indian Premier League form. KL Rahul, who had previously been surplus to limited-overs requirements, will be given a chance to show he is not just a Test specialist.

Other relatively new faces include Washington Sundar, Basil Thampi, Jaydev Unadkat and Mohammed Siraj. Sundar enjoyed a promising debut in the second ODI, while Siraj needs to recover from a poor T20I debut against New Zealand last month. Thampi and Unadkat will be led by Jasprit Bumrah.

Opportunity, indeed, knocks for Bumrah to spearhead an attack minus the services of Bhuvneshwar Kumar. Hardik Pandya's role with the ball will be in the spotlight again, as a busy year for the talismanic all-rounder draws to a close.

Wednesday's venue is new to T20I cricket. The Cuttack ground has only hosted one, in 2015, when South Africa came up trumps against an Indian outfit that fielded only two seamers. One can't see the hosts doing that again, with a third quick a near certainty.

Sri Lanka
Just six players have been retained from the squad that played Pakistan a couple of months ago, with a string of senior statesman - who refused to travel to Lahore due to security concerns in October - recalled.

Sri Lanka's tendency to choose several all-rounders over specialists is again evident, with Sachith Pathirana and Chaturanga de Silva among the beneficiaries. Lasith Malinga has been rested and Suranga Lakmal overlooked.

Kusal Perera, who will return from a lengthy layoff due to a hamstring injury, will jostle for position in a top-order lined with Sadeera Samarawickrama, Danushka Gunathilaka and Upul Tharanga.

While they've displayed solid enough form in the Test arena and glimpses of improvement in the ODI ring, the Sri Lankans - as former World Twenty20 champions - must demand plenty more of themselves in the shortest format.

They have never played a T20I at the Barabati Stadium, but have some ODI experience here - and a handful of players who have played at his ground during the IPL.

Verdict: India 1/5
The hosts' surge, despite the absence of Kohli, Kumar and Shikhar Dhawan, won't likely relent after recovering from defeat in the first ODI and gaining a significant amount of momentum since.

Written by Jonhenry Wilson for Hollywoodbets

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