India vs Sri Lanka | Mahela Jayawardene pegs Sri Lanka as favourites but doesn’t rule out India

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India vs Sri Lanka | Mahela Jayawardene pegs Sri Lanka as favourites but doesn’t rule out India

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SportsCafe Desk

03/06/2018

Mahela Jayawardene has surprisingly picked hosts Sri Lanka as the favourites to win the Nidahas Trophy, highlighting their good start to 2018 and India’s visiting under-strength side. The former skipper stated that Malinga’s absence will put pressure on the Lions' inexperienced bowling strikeforce.

Jayawardene has been looking at the positives of the Sri Lankan side ahead of the Nidahas Trophy and has pegged the hosts as the favourites in the upcoming tri-nation series, which also includes India and Bangladesh. After a disastrous 2017, the Lankans have seen some positive outcomes coming their way, in the tri-series including Bangladesh and Zimbabwe and a Test and T20I tour of Bangladesh that saw Sri Lanka going unbeaten.

The side’s new found confidence under new coach Chandika Hathuruasingha and the familiar home conditions could be helpful for Sri Lanka as they take on an inexperienced Indian side. Though Jayawardene didn’t rule out India, labelling them as ‘dangerous’, he, unlike coach Hathuruasingha, doesn’t believe the Men in Blue to be the favourites.

“Given home advantage, growing confidence under coach Chandika Hathuruasingha, and the fact that India are not at full-strength, I think Sri Lanka can be fairly labelled as the favourites. But I would definitely not write off India who are blessed with strength in depth these days,” wrote Jayawardene in TOI column.

“It’s been an encouraging start to the year for this young Sri Lanka team under the stewardship of new coach Chandika Hathurasingha. We definitely had a year to forget in 2017 but there were some positive signs during the recent tour to Bangladesh, where the team completed an unexpected clean-sweep. This upturn in form and confidence makes the upcoming Nidahas Trophy very interesting indeed. It should be very competitive despite India resting some of their core players,” he added.

Since Jayawardene retired from the T20Is after the final of the 2014 ICC World Twenty20, where Sri Lanka had beaten India, the side has gone through a huge downturn. The once feared pace bowling battery has been absent and now with veteran Lasith Malinga also excluded from the squad, Jayawardene has pinned his hopes on the emerging names.

“Suranga Lakmal, Nuwan Pradeep and Dushmantha Chameera are all inexperienced in this format. It’s going to be a real test of their skills and I am looking forward to seeing how they perform at critical high-pressure moments when it is very tough for the fast bowlers. The absence of Lasith [Malinga], in particular, places extra pressure on the fast bowlers,” he wrote.

The India squad has left behind big names like Virat Kohli, MS Dhoni, Jasprit Bumrah and many more, with Washington Sundar, Rishabh Pant, Deepak Hooda, Vijay Shankar and Mohammad Siraj taking to the field in their stead. And while many have frowned upon the decision, Jayawardene, who is the coach of Mumbai Indians, has understood BCCI’s need to rest their star players ahead of the mega-league.

“It will be interesting to see what combination India go with today given the absence of most of their T20 stalwarts. The selectors will be excited about an opportunity to see some youngsters perform. Given a tough touring schedule and the IPL fast approaching, the decision to manage the workloads of some of their biggest stars is certainly understandable,” wrote the 40-year-old.

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