After escaping a late charge by the Sri Lankan all-rounders at Wankhede Stadium on Tuesday night, Hardik Pandya and Co. — along with their islander counterparts — took a bus ride on Wednesday afternoon to the home of Maharashtra cricket.
While neither team bus halted at the Maharashtra Cricket Association Stadium towards the end of the Mumbai-Pune Expressway, the Indian team management has been fretting over fitness of two of its key members in its bid to seal the series.
Sanju Samson will be a doubtful starter, after hurting his knee in the series opener. In the 13th over of Sri Lanka’s chase, Samson jammed his knee while fielding at long-on, thanks to a rugged Wankhede outfield.
While the team travelled to Pune, Samson stayed back in Mumbai, awaiting reports of his scan. Samson’s injury adds to concerns over Arshdeep Singh’s availability. The left-arm pacer who was supposed to lead the inexperienced pace attack was missing in action on Tuesday.
Despite being involved in high-catches drill during the squad’s warm-up, Arshdeep was said to be unavailable for selection due to an ailment. Having travelled to the city where he first impressed head coach Rahul Dravid during the Under-19 Challenger Trophy ahead of the 2018 U-19 World Cup, Arshdeep will be keen to pitch his trademark yorkers.
If Arshdeep is available, India will be in a quandary over whether to bench Harshal Patel or Shivam Mavi. While Harshal had a decent outing, Mavi made the most of his maiden outing by emerging as only the third Indian bowler to pick four wickets on T20I debut. Umran Malik, having bowled a ferocious delivery that clocked 155 kph on the speed gun to dismiss Sri Lanka captain Dasun Shanaka, is indispensable.
Should Samson be unavailable, the local crowd will be hoping for Rahul Tripathi’s long wait for his debut cap to end at his home ground. Ever since his maiden call-up to India’s squad last year, Tripathi has been a part of the squad for four T20Is and nine ODIs so far, without getting a look-in.
With Ruturaj Gaikwad also in the reserves, it will be the first time an international will be played at Gahunje with two hometown heroes in the squad. While the locals will be hoping for both of them to feature in the game, Samson’s injury has opened the doors for Tripathi to be given a go.
Be it Samson or Tripathi, the onus will be on them to ensure India doesn’t stutter in the middle overs, like it did on Tuesday. If it can dominate the Lankan spin duo of Wanindu Hasaranga and Maheesh Theekshana, the series can definitely be sealed on Thursday night.
The teams (from):
India: Hardik Pandya (Capt.), Suryakumar Yadav (Vice-capt.), Ishan Kishan (wk), Ruturaj Gaikwad, Shubman Gill, Deepak Hooda, Rahul Tripathi, Sanju Samson (wk), Washington Sundar, Yuzvendra Chahal, Axar Patel, Arshdeep Singh, Harshal Patel, Umran Malik, Shivam Mavi and Mukesh Kumar.
Sri Lanka: Dasun Shanaka (Capt.), Wanindu Hasaranga (Vice-capt.), Pathum Nissanka, Avishka Fernando, Sadeera Samarawickrama (wk), Kusal Mendis (wk), Bhanuka Rajapaksa, Charith Asalanka, Dhananjaya de Silva, Ashen Bandara, Maheesh Theekshana, Chamika Karunaratne, Dilshan Madushanka, Kasun Rajitha, Dunith Wellalage, Pramod Madushan, Lahiru Kumara and Nuwan Thushara.
Match starts at 7 p.m.