Important Player-Match-ups To Watch Out For #cricket #sports


India vs Sri Lanka 2023: In the year 2022, India played 40 T20Is. Never before had they played more than 21 in a calendar year. Much like them, Sri Lanka too played more T20Is in 2022 than they ever had in a year.

At this point, it is stating the obvious: T20 is the fastest-growing format of the game. However, what people sometimes fail to understand is that it is also the fastest-evolving format of the game. T20 cricket in 2017 was very different to what it is in 2023. On the outside, it might look the same; the rules have hardly changed. But strategically, it has metamorphosed. Anchor batters have become redundant, teams do not want grafters in the middle overs anymore and batting & bowling orders today depend on “player-match-ups”.

“Player-match-ups” or “batter-vs-bowler-match-ups” have always existed in cricket. But they have a much-amplified significance in the modern T20s. For instance, promoting a left-hander in the order to counter the opposition’s spinners can be a match-defining move. So often, we’ve seen the fielding captain start with a spinner just because the opener seems to have a better record against pace. Many times overs of certain bowlers are held back for a specific batter.

It goes without saying that ‘player match-ups’ would once again be at the fulcrum of strategies as India and Sri Lanka kick off 2023 with a T20I series. Here’s a look at some major match-ups you should keep an eye on:-

1. Sanju Samson vs Wanindu Hasaranga

With Rishabh Pant likely to be unavailable for an extended period, Sanju Samson will have his opportunity cut out to stake a claim for an extended run in the team; at least for the T20Is. He, however, would have to turn heads with noteworthy performances as India already have Ishan Kishan too in the squad.

In Samson’s path stands his arch-nemesis Wanindu Hasaranga.

Having ended up being the highest wicket-taker in the last two consecutive T20 World Cups, Hasaranga’s prowess in the format doesn’t need an introduction. For his record against Samson in particular, the word “domination” even might sound like an understatement.

Hasaranga dismissing Samson in the IPL Playoffs
India vs Sri Lanka 2023 T20I Series: Wanindu Hasaranga vs Sanju Samson is going to be one of the key battles. (Image Source: IPLT20.com

The two have faced each other 5 times in T20 matches. Hasaranga has got Samson out all 5 times. In fact, the explosive batter has a miserable strike rate of 73.5 against the leg-spinner. Samson averages 5 against him and three out of every four balls Hasaranga bowls to him are dot balls.

2. Dasun Shanaka vs Yuzvendra Chahal

He wears 7 on his back, captains with a calm head and has the ability to finish off games. Fans have often compared Dasun Shanaka to MS Dhoni.

The last time he was in India, he scored a 38-ball-74 after coming into bat with his team 29-4. A few months later, he helped Sri Lanka complete an unlikely victory against Australia.

Shanaka has made over 25% of his T20I runs against India. Having scored runs at a strike rate of 169.33 for the entire season of the Lanka Premier League, he comes into this series with some form behind him. Although he has always found it tough against leg-spinners.

In his international career, Shanaka has been dismissed by leg spin 27 times and averages a meagre 14.41 against it. As a matter of fact, his otherwise handsome-looking strike rate of 141.45 in T20 cricket overall plummets to 110.19 against wrist spin. In other words, it would be wise to hold an over or two of Yuzvendra Chahal for Shanaka.

Image of Shanaka getting bowled by Yuzvendra Chahal in 2021
Dasun Shanaka is bowled by Yuzvendra Chahal in 2021. (Image Source: ESPNCricinfo)

3. Charith Asalanka vs Axar Patel

With Gunathilaka not in the team anymore and Rajapaksa poised for a finishing role, Asalanka is the sole left-hander in the top 4. And he is indeed a very good one. On sluggish tracks in the U.A.E., Asalanka was Sri Lanka’s top scorer in the 2021 T20WC, averaging 46 and scoring at a strike rate of 147.

He would be crucial in defusing one of India’s potent weapons: Axar Patel. Axar looked a league above everyone else last time India played a T20I series at home. He was, in fact, the player of the series. Expect Sri Lanka to promote Asalanka in the order to counter Axar.

The two have, interestingly, never faced off in white ball cricket. They have in the longer format though. Axar has dismissed Asalanka twice and has never conceded a run to him in Test Cricket.

Axar Patel vs Charith Asalanka
Axar Patel has bowled 16 balls to Asalanka in Test Cricket getting him out twice. (Image Source: ESPNCricinfo)

4. Avishka Fernando vs Arshdeep Singh

Avishka Fernando was considered a batting prodigy. Selectors were so impressed with his U-19 exploits that they handed him an international debut against Australia before he had even played a single First Class or List A match. Fernando had his moments – scored 3 centuries and 5 fifties in ODIs – but looked a little undercooked at times. Hence, he was eventually dropped.

Avishka Fernando
Avishka Fernando was considered a batting prodigy. Image Source: ESPNCricinfo

He’s had an excellent season in the Lanka Premier League where he ended up as the top scorer. If he plays, a match-up between him and Arshdeep Singh will be a tantalising one to watch out for. The Indian left-arm pacer has shown the ability to swing the new ball and take wickets up front.

Interestingly, Avishka has a fabulous record in franchise cricket where he scores at an average of 62.3 and a strike rate of 147.1 against left-arm pace. However, the same numbers plummet drastically in international cricket. He’s been dismissed 11 times by southpaw seamers and averages a miserable 14.45 while scoring at less than a run a ball.

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