Pune, Feb 8 (IANS) India will aim to hold on to their current form when they take on an injury-hit Sri Lanka in the opening game of their three-match Twenty20 International (T20I) series at the Maharashtra Cricket Association Stadium here on Tuesday.
The confidence of the home team is sky high following a 3-0 hammering of Australia Down Under and the T20I series against the Island nation will be ideal for preparations for the upcoming Asia Cup in Bangladesh and World T20 in India in March-April.
India, who vaulted seven places to first after sweeping aside Australia last week, need to win the series against Lanka to retain the coveted position in International Cricket Council (ICC) T20I rankings.
While Lanka will also aim to win the series, if they win it 2-1 they will gain the top spot and India will slip to third position
India’s star batsman Virat Kohli has been rested for the series ahead of the all important Asia Cup and World T20.
Despite Kohli’s absence, the hosts need not worry much as openers Rohit Sharma and Shikhar Dhawan have been in good form of late.
The duo will aim to exploit the Lankan bowlers in batting friendly Indian pitches especially when pacer Lasith Malinga is not in the squad due to injury.
The return of experienced Suresh Raina and Yuvraj Singh into the squad makes it more challenging for the opposition. Both the left-handers steered the team to victory in the final T20I match against Australia.
Fit-again Ajinkya Rahane, skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni and in-form Manish Pandey who scored a brilliant ton Down Under in the final One-Day International (ODI) match make the batting line-up even stronger.
In the bowling department, spinning duo of Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja give the hosts an edge.
Veteran pacer Ashish Nehra, young Jasprit Bumrah, all-rounder Hardik Pandya will be raring to make an impact at home after a successful outing in Australia.
On the other hand, veteran fast bowler Dilhara Fernando was recalled in the Dinesh Chandimal-led weak Lankan side.
The 36-year-old Fernando last played for his national side way back in 2012 and played 40 Tests, 141 ODIs and 17 T20 internationals for them.
T20I captain Malinga misses out due to injury, along with all-rounder Angelo Mathews, seamer Nuwan Kulasekara, and left-arm spinner Rangana Herath.
With the absence of experienced players from the visiting squad, the hosts will aim to make the best use of it to get their first win under their belt on Tuesday.