Sounding the long elusive victory in the final ODI, the first over India in 12 years and only Sri Lanka’s second in a long drought has given new hope to the over 21 million cricket crazy population of a repeat when the host country locks horns with Shikhar Dhawan’s charges in the opening T20 contest at the R. Premadasa Stadium tonight. To a nation besieged by the deadly COVID-19 pandemic that has scourged an entire universe, certainly the home cricket fan base that would be lapping the action through the live telecast, there cannot be anything more adrenalin pumping than a win in the action flying bat-ball hamburger short version of the game that has by large come to sate the pulse. In that vein, the onus will indeed by on the home team skipper Dasun Shanaka to lead from the front to drawing first blood in the opener where the Lankans strong point would be to to undo the Indian batting with spin following that last pay off where Praveen Jayawickrama and Akila Dananjaya shared six wickets between them.
Of course, while the Indians, despite minus the services of regular skipper Virat Kohli and Rohit Sharma among few regulars on test duty in England, have aptly compensated for their absence by showcasing some absorbing match winning performances in winning the ODI series 2-1, the Lankans displayed tremendous improvement in the last two games where they lost after being in the box seat for a good part of the match. Having atoned for that lapse by coming good in the final game has significantly marked a turnaround in the new look Sri Lankan cast. For a composition based on selector accentuation on the new, the Lankans certainly underlined the much sought cohesiveness in a trail that had started in Bangladesh and extended to England in bad defeats. Fact is results in such a change from old brooms to the new would not come overnight, a fact emphasised not very long ago by Sri Lanka’s Australian born Director of Cricket Affairs who voiced that all cricket countries had undergone such phased out change.
Therein witnessing several youngsters raise their hands in the last two ODIs against the Indians would certainly be a buoying factor as the action shifts to the more fast paced T20 format. While India has proved that it possesses some dazzling stroke makers led by the belligerent skipper Dhawan opening the batting, Sri Lanka would be relying heavily on young Avishka Fernando who came into his element with successive half centuries including the match winning top score of 76 to deliver with the bat upfront. He would be likely be pairing with the hard hitting left-hander Minod Bhanuka who got into a groove with a fast paced 36 in the second ODI. While the advent of the explosive Bhanuka Rajapaksa has been a pay off in the pivotal No.3 slot following his 56-ball 65 that was the cameo atom to that Sri Lanka win, the Lankan line-up does look good with the dependable Dhananjaya de Silva and the skipper himself Dasun Shanaka who basks in the reputation of a specialist in run making in the T20 form of the game while young Charith Asalanka by his 68-run top score in the second ODI and level headed 24 in the victorious game has added muscle to the batting department. The pinch hitting Wanindu Hasaranga and new find Chamika Karunaratne too add to that nucleus while the bowling department looks good spearheaded by Dushmantha Chameera and Karunaratne who has improved with each outing and the likes of new find Praveen Jayawickrama and the seasoned Akila Dananjaya backed by Dhananjaya de Silva’s slow stuff.