India and Sri Lanka will step up their preparations for the Asia Cup and World Twenty20 when beginning a three-match series in Pune on Tuesday. The matches will be both teams’ last outings before the Asia Cup gets underway in Bangladesh later this month. And almost immediately from there the sides will head back to India for the T20 version of cricket’s World Cup.
With India having just returned from a tour of Australia and Sri Lanka from New Zealand, the upcoming series will be an important reintroduction for both teams to Indian subcontinent conditions.
“Now we are back in India conditions,” Indian spinner Ravichandran Ashwin said, reports the Indian Express. “We need to understand that the Indian conditions are very different. The grounds are smaller than what it was in Australia.
“We will have to match up again with the ground sizes, the wicket and pace of wickets. It’s pretty much about taking as many lessons as possible from Asia Cup before the World Cup.”
Still, India will have arrived home in high spirits. Despite a 4-1 humbling in their one-day international series Down Under, Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s team completed a clean sweep in the three Twenty20 internationals, their first series whitewash in Australia in any format.
After what had been a poor run in limited-overs cricket, the emphatic triumph has changed the mood around the squad heading into two big tournaments. And it means they go into the Sri Lanka series at the top of the International Cricket Council’s T20I rankings.
India now also has the world’s top-ranked 20-over batsman in Virat Kohli. However, after starring in Australia, Kohli has been given the Sri Lanka series off ahead of a busy few weeks. There will be a place, though, for another standout performer Down Under, Jasprit Bumrah. The 22-year-old took six wickets in his first three Twenty20 internationals and has also been rewarded with a place in India’s World T20 squad.
There will be much focus, too, on fellow rookie Pawan Negi. Despite having only just been called up for his country for the first time, the 23-year-old all-rounder fetched nearly $1.3 million in the biggest surprise of Saturday’s Indian Premier League auction. Completing a whirlwind few days, he could now make his international debut on Tuesday.
In contrast to their opponents, there were precious few positives to be taken for Sri Lanka from their recent tour. Sri Lanka lost both their T20I matches against New Zealand, the second of them by a humiliating nine wickets, as New Zealand chased down their opponents’ meager total with 10 overs still to spare.
It represents a worrying fall for a country that has reached the final of the last two World T20s, winning last time out in 2014. And their hopes of bouncing back in India have been hit by key injuries. Pace bowler Lasith Malinga, who is still scheduled to captain Sri Lanka at the World T20, will miss out against India as he continues his recovery from a knee injury, while his vice-captain all-rounder Angelo Matthews is still troubled by a groin strain.
Adding to their list of absentees for the first 20-over match with India will be their most-capped player in T20Is, Tilakaratne Dilshan. The 39-year-old, who has a hand injury, will be replaced by Niroshan Dickwella.
Match time: Tuesday, 9 a.m. EST
TV channel: Willow TV