|Player:||MS Dhoni, TM Dilshan, Yuvraj Singh, IK Pathan, SL Malinga|
|Event:||India in Sri Lanka 2008/09|
DateLine: 9th February 2009
On a high after demolishing Sri Lanka 4-1 in the just-concluded ODI series, world champions India will have a distinct edge over the depleted hosts when the sides lock horn in the first Twenty20 match on Lankan soil. Sri Lanka will hope to carry forward some of the confidence regained after winning the fifth and final match but Sunday's defeat was just a blip on the Indian team's radar after Mahendra Singh Dhoni and his men dictated terms for the most part of the series. With Sri Lanka deciding to rest key players, including regular captain Mahela Jayawardene, deputy Kumar Sangakkara and the spin twins of Muttiah Muralitharan and Ajantha Mendis, Tillakaratne Dilshan will have an unenviable task at hand when he walks out for the toss on Tuesday.
Having achieved the primary target of clinching the ODI series, the Indian team would be in a relaxed state of mind and Tuesday's match would be an ideal opportunity for the stroke players to light up the stadium with batting pyrotechnics. A victim of serial umpiring blunders, Sachin Tendulkar has already returned home but going by the kind of form Virender Sehwag and Gautam Gambhir are in, the Lankans bowlers will have tough time taming the Delhi duo. Containing someone like Yuvraj Singh is no mean task either, as the Lankan bowlers realised on Sunday. Arguably the cleanest striker of the ball, Yuvraj simply relishes this format and once he keeps going, he can win the match on his own.
Not that Dhoni himself is a dud with the bat. Even though the Indian captain has evolved his batting and moulded himself as a finisher, he remains essentially a swashbuckler who prefers to deal in fours and sixes. The likes of Suresh Raina and Rohit Sharma can improvise at will, while Yusuf Pathan's six-hitting ability is beyond any doubt.
Even though the Indian team does not have Harbhajan Singh in its ranks and Zaheer Khan is likely to be rested, the bowling unit is quite effective. Ishant Sharma has proved time and again that his mastery of the craft is enough to trouble the best of the batsmen, while Praveen Kumar too is eager to prove his worth. No more an automatic choice in the ODI squad, Irfan Pathan too would not be low on motivation, while comeback man L Balaji, if given a chance, would be eager to prove that he can more than make up for his lack of pace with guile and variation. In contrast, the new look Sri Lankan squad under Dilshan would have their task cut out against India.
The absence of Jayawardene, Sangakkara, Nuwan Kulasekara, Muralitharan and Mendis does provide the fringe players an opportunity to impress the selectors but at the same time, it also renders the side low on experience. Lasith Malinga returns to the Twenty20 side after a knee injury kept him out of action for nearly a year and the maverick pacer would have to prove that he has not gathered rust all these months. The side also includes 35-year-old Indika de Saram, who would be standing behind the stumps
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