When these two teams meet in the T20 format last time, it was in the World T20 final held in Bangladesh two years ago. Sri Lanka won that match, suffocating the Indian lower middle order by clever death bowling. But Sri Lanka are missing most of the personnel who made that victory over a much superior Indian side possible. India has rested Virat Kohli but Sri Lanka are also without the services of Lasith Malinga, Kulasekara, Mathews, Herath and Dilshan, all missing out to injuries while Mahela and Sanga have since retired.
Let us look at 3 Fantastico Battles that can make a huge impact on the outcome of the 1st T20I:
Rohit Sharma and Shikhar Dhawan Vs Dilhara Fernando
The Indians faced a returning Shaun Tait in their series against Australia and he leaked runs in both the games that he played on his comeback. This time around the Indian duo will square off against another pace bowler making a surprise comeback in the shortest format of the game. Dilhara Fernando has always been an enigma in world cricket, supremely talented and capable of bowling at high pace and penetrative spells but so vulnerable to pressure and so lacking in control that he has always been a story of 'What could have been'. Possessing the dangerous split finger slower ball which flummoxed many a good batsmen in his time, he is also capable of bowling the yorkers in the death overs. It remains to be seen which version of Fernando the Indians will encounter, and how the in-form Rohit and Dhawan will put early pressure on him. It will also be interesting to see if Fernando has solved his no ball problems which he had all those years ago.
Sri Lankan Middle Order Vs R Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja
The Indian spin duo had a hold on the Aussie middle order in Australia and were responsible for slowing them down on all occasions by picking up wickets. The Sri Lankan middle order is quite inexperienced with Dasun Shanaka slotted to come in at three and Chandimal, a talented player but unable to adjust to the T20 frenzy thus far coming in at 4. Milinda Siriwardene, a player who made his debut recently had impressed me with his unflappable temperament and silky shots. These three players will have to neutralise the threat posed by the Indian spinners and at the same time score runs at a fair clip.
Niroshan Dickwella and Danushka Gunathilaka Vs Jasprit Bumrah
This will be the battle of the new faces, Dickwella making his T20 debut because Dilshan is injured for this game while Gunathilaka made his debut against the Kiwis just last month. Bumrah was the find of the Aussie tour for the Indians with an ability to bowl yorkers at will in the death overs. Gunathilaka played a couple of very fine knocks in New Zealand facing a very good fast bowling attack so it will be a good battle between the two young boys.
This might not be the most high profile that the Indians have played recently but will provide a glimpse into what we can expect at the WT20 which is just a month away.