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Will Shreyas Iyer Be Retained For Sri Lanka Game?

November 01, 2023 07:30 IST

IMAGE: Shreyas Iyer has struggled to deal with the short balls, perishing three times to the pull shot in World Cup 2023. Photograph: BCCI

Table toppers India will take some stopping when they take on a struggling Sri Lanka in the World Cup 2023 match in Mumbai on Thursday, November 2, 2023.

India have been unbeaten in the World Cup with six straight wins with both their batting and bowling firing on all cylinders.

India will be buoyed by the stupendous performance of their bowlers in the game against defending champions England, whom they shot out for a paltry 129 in 34.5 overs.

It would take a brave man to bet against the rampaging Indians when they take on an inconsistent Sri Lanka, who have managed just two wins from six matches played.

In their last game, Sri Lanka struggled in both their batting and bowling against Afghanistan as they suffered a seven wicket defeat on a flat wicket in Pune.

Captain Kusal Mendis has fallen off the boil after his cracking 122 against Pakistan, managing just 70 runs in the next four games.

Sadeera Samarawickrama has been Sri Lanka's most consistent batter in World Cup 2023 with 331 runs in six games, including a century and two fifties, at a strike rate of 82, while opener Pathum Nissanka has scored 289 runs with four fifties in a row.

But the rest of the batters haven't provided enough support with the likes of Charith Asalanka, Kusal Perera and Dhananjaya de Silva struggling for consistency.

In the bowling department, pacer Dilshan Madushanka has topped the charts with 13 wickets, while fellow pacer Kasuna Rajitha has bagged eight wickets, but their big disappoinment has been the form of lead spinner Maheesh Theekshana, who has bagged just three wickets in five games with not much support from the other bowlers as well.

It would be near impossible for this inconsistent bowling attack to stop the in-form Indian batting line-up, who have taken apart much better bowling line-ups including Australia, Pakistan and New Zealand in earlier games.

Captain Rohit Sharma's aggressive approach has been integral in India's success. He has set the tone for India in the Powerplay, smashing his way to 398 runs from six matches at a strike rate of 119, while senior pro Virat Kohli has been among the runs as well, scoring 354 runs at an average of 88 with a century and three fifties.

K L Rahul has provided solidity to the middle order, with 216 runs at an average of 108, while Suryakumar Yadav made a good comeback with a timely 49 against England.

But the poor forms of Shubman Gill and Shreyas Iyer will be a big concern for the Indians.

Gill, who missed the first two games after testing positive for dengue, has struggled to get back his form which has seen him dominate the 50 overs format in 2023. He stroked a half-century (53) against Bangladesh, but has managed just 51 runs in the other three innings.

With India perched comfortably at the top of the standings with six straight wins, Gill doesn't face the risk of losing his place in the team at least for another 2-3 games, but he needs to get back among the runs soon or else the team could start thinking about other options like Ishan Kishan.

The hosts face a similar quandry with the misfiring Iyer, who has perished to short balls three times in the World Cup. He looks clearly uncomfortable against the bouncers and one wonders why Coach Rahul Dravid and Batting Coach Vikram Rathour haven't been able to help the young Mumbaikar tide over the issue.

Iyer, who is naturally an attacking batter, has resorted to taking on the short balls instead of trying to take the sensible approach of trying to avoid the bouncers.

It won't be a surprise if Sri Lanka's pacers also employ the short ball tactics against Iyer. He worked hard for a couple of hours in the nets on Tuesday, trying to better his technique against the short balls, but he also needs to shape up mentally and have a clear approach when facing the bouncers.

As of now, Iyer (134 runs from 6 games) has no cause to worry since Hardik Pandya's absence because of injury has given him some breathing space at least for the next game or two.

But with Suryakumar among the runs, another failure or two for Iyer could make the team management seriously think about bringing in Kishan, as the left-hander also provides the much-needed variety in the all right-handed top and middle order.

Kishan has showed great temperament to adapt to either the middle order or the opening role whenever he has been called into the playing XI. He scored 47 against Afghanistan but lost his place when Gill came back into the team and he could be set for another go in the World Cup if Iyer fails to deliver.

India could be expected to retain the same bowling line-up inclusive of three pacers and two spinners on a Wankhede wicket which has produced high scores for the teams batting first in the two matches played at this venue in the World Cup.

Jasprit Bumrah has been India's standout performer with 14 wickets at an economy rate of 3.91, while Mohammed Shami has made a stunning comeback with nine wickets in two games. Mohammed Siraj has bagged six wickets.

The spin twins Kuldeep Yadav and Ravindra Jadeja have also been quite consistent with 10 wickets and eight wickets respectively.

India's bowling has been so impressive that they are yet to concede 300 in the six matches played so far in the World Cup with Afghanistan the only other team to manage that feat.

With the recovering Hardik Pandya still not available, India are likely to field the same team and give Iyer a final chance to get his mojo back.

Probable XI: Rohit Sharma (captain), Ishan Kishan, Virat Kohli, Shreyas Iyer, K L Rahul (wicket-keeper), Suryakumar Yadav, Ravindra Jadeja, Mohammed Shami, Jasprit Bumrah, Kuldeep Yadav, Mohammed Siraj.

Who do you think should be part of India's playing for the World Cup match against Sri Lanka?

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