India will aim to get its preparations for the Asia Cup and World Twenty20 back on track when taking on Sri Lanka in the second of their three-match series on Friday. After a morale-boosting 3-0 series clean sweep against Australia Down Under, India’s fine-tuning ahead of the World T20 on home soil next month was dealt a setback when a depleted Sri Lanka claimed a surprise five-wicket victory in Pune on Tuesday.
On a pitch that offered more for the bowlers than had been anticipated, India were caught out by the loss of two wickets in the opening over and never fully recovered. In posting a meager total of 101, Rohit Sharma, Shikhar Dhawan, Ajinkya Rahane and Mahendra Singh Dhoni all failed to get into double figures, with spinner Ravichandran Ashwin top-scoring with 31. Sri Lanka’s unheralded and inexperienced pace attack of Kasun Rajitha, Dushmantha Chameera and Dasun Shanaka, with just seven previous Twenty20 international between them, amassed eight wickets.
A Sri Lanka side missing Angelo Matthews, Tilakaratne Dilshan and Lasith Malinga was not overly confident in reeling off the runs required in response, but still got the job done with five wickets and two overs to spare. And India team director Ravi Shastri has admitted ahead of the second T20I that his team need to do better at adapting their batting approach to the conditions.
“Very early you have to make sure what the conditions are what the pitch entails and how many runs is a competitive score on that pitch,” he said.
“You learn from every match. You get such kind of performances. I expected it but the sooner it happens the better. That pitch was not the same, it did a little bit for the bowlers—it turned, it seamed there was bounce, it was two-paced. It wasn’t easy so when you come with the flow of Australia, you could see the batsman faltered, but there again no excuse you have to adapt to the conditions, instead of 160 or 180, 140 might have been just good enough.”
Shastri’s measured reaction is understandable, given the pitch was of the kind unlikely to be encountered again in the Asia Cup or especially the World Twenty20, where Pune will not host any matches. There is also the factor that India are without star batsman Virat Kohli in this series, having been given a rest ahead of more significant challenges ahead in cricket’s shortest format.
Sri Lanka’s list of absentees was significantly longer, although it will be eased in Ranchi on Friday with the return from a hand injury of Dilshan. The veteran is likely to replace Niroshan Dickwella in the lineup. For India, Pawan Negi could be handed an international debut on a more spin-friendly track. It has been a memorable past week for the 23-year-old, having been called up to the squads for the Asia Cup and World T20, as well as fetching over $1 million in the Indian Premier League auction.
Match time: Friday, 9 a.m. EST
TV channel: Willow TV