India are set to begin this calendar year by welcoming Sri Lanka in a three-match T20I series starting on January 5 in Guwahati. India are set to play 8 T20Is against Sri Lanka and New Zealand respectively to prepare themselves for the upcoming World T20 later in the year Down Under. However, if history is anything to go by, the three-match series isn't going to be the best of ways to prepare for a ICC tournament.
India's dominance against Sri Lanka has been glaring to the eye. Out of the 11 T20Is played in between the two countries, Sri Lanka have won just two games with the last victory coming in 2015-16 series when the Lankans toured India in a three-match T20I series. India still went on to win the series 2-1. The other win was in 2009-10 in a 1-1 drawn series between the two nations.
India are yet to go down to Sri Lanka in a series so far and with the recent runs of the two teams in mind, it is unlikely to change in the three-match affair, starting Sunday.
T20I RECORD SINCE 2016 WORLD T20
Since the World T20 in 2016, India have won 12 of the 19 bilateral series they have played. Three series ended in draws while Australia, New Zealand and West Indies (twice in 2016 & 2017) have managed to beat them. In all, India have played 50 T20Is as a part of bilateral series since the last World T20 and won 30 matches. In between, The Men In Blue have also won the Nidahas Trophy in Sri Lanka which also included the Bangladesh apart from the hosts.
Sri Lanka, on the other hand, have won just five T20I series since the WT20 in 2016 out of the 16 they have played. They have played 45 T20Is (bilateral series) since the last marquee ICC T20I event and won only 12 games. In the Nidahas Trophy as well, they failed to make the final despite being the host nation.
When recent results are considered, Sri Lanka were just whitewashed by Australia 3-0 before which they defeated Pakistan 3-0 and prior to that, the Lankans lost a three-match series to New Zealand 1-2. When it comes to India, Kohli & Co. beat West Indies and Bangladesh 2-1 each respectively and drew against South Africa 1-1 with a game being washed out in a three-match series.
With India looking to crop and change and decide their best combination for the World T20, this could be Sri Lanka's best chance to get one over on their arch-rivals but keeping India's squad in mind and the history of the Lankans as well, it looks difficult.
Looking into the batting front, India have registered 13 fifties and a century against the Sri Lankans so far in T20Is while the Lankans have just 8 fifties amongst themselves against India, with Kumar Sangakkara recording the highest score of 78 in Nagpur in 2009. For India, it is Rohit Sharma's 118 in Indore back in 2017.
The list of top run-scorers also features 7 Indians in the top 10 with the three exceptions being Sangakkara (235 in 4 matches), Chamara Kapugedera (189 runs in 7 matches) and Kusal Perera (174 runs in 6 matches). For India, Rohit leads the charts with 289 runs from 15 matches and is followed by Virat Kohli (283 runs in 4 matches) and Suresh Raina (265 runs in 12 matches).
In the bowling department, Yuzvendra Chahal leading the charts with 14 wickets from 5 matches and is followed by R Ashwin (13 wickets from 6 games) and Dushmantha Chameera (10 wickets from 9 games) in the top three. In the top 10, there are just three from Lanka with Thisara Perera (8 wickets from 13 games) and Dasun Shanaka (6 wickets from 9 matches). For India, Kuldeep Yadav, Hardik Pandya and now retired Ashish Nehra have 8 wickets apiece so far.
Diving into the stats book further, show Malinga, who remains one of the best bowlers of all-time in limited-overs cricket, return with an average, economy and strike rate of - 52.25, 8.25 and 38.0 respectively - the worst against any opposition.
The three-match series, however, could ring in a change to the domination. With India looking to crop and change in order to find the perfect combination for the T20 World Cup, the visitors might have a chance to upset the hosts if they can play the perfect brand of cricket.
India have rested Rohit Sharma and Shikhar Dhawan is set to return at the top of the order to partner KL Rahul, who has shown great form recently. With Dhawan returning from a long lay-off, he could be rusty and that's an area which Sri Lanka can exploit. Going further down, finishing remains a concern in Hardik Pandya's absence and so does the perfect spin combination with Ravindra Jadeja, Kuldeep Yadav, Yuzvendra Chahal and Washington Sundar all competing for two spots. Shivam Dube has blown hot and cold and is barring a fifty and a good spell with the ball, he hasn't down anything great to justify his place ahead of Pandya, who is set to return for the New Zealand series later in the month.
In the pace department, however, Jasprit Bumrah's return along with Navdeep Saini will give India a much-needed respite in Deepak Chahar's absence.
For Sri Lanka, Angelo Mathews returned to the squad led by Lasith Malinga for the three-match affair. Mathews along with the promising Avishka Fernando, Kusal Perera and Niroshan Dickwella will have to do the heavy lifting with the bat if at all they want to stand a chance against the Indians.
In the bowling department, Malinga remains the key despite his bad returns against India in the shortest format of the game. Isuru Udana, who recently bagged his maiden IPL contract with Royal Challengers Bangalore and Lakshan Sandakan will have to share the burden with the ball against an Indian side, who have recently looked to post big totals and play attacking cricket.
Overall, the scales remain tilted towards the hosts but in T20 cricket nothing is written in the stars and one bad day or even two bad overs could tilt the scales in the opposition's favour. With plenty for franchise cricket experience behind their back, the Sri Lankans have enough experience to topple India on a given day but to win the series, they'd need consistency and that is what Malinga and Chandika Hathurusingha will be looking for in a World Cup year.