ICC World Twenty20 2012 begins in September and both Sri Lanka and Pakistan will look to gain valuable experience and T20 match practice from the bilateral T20 series that begins on June 1. A number of Sri Lankans participated in the recently concluded IPL and hence are obviously in the ‘T20’ mode but Pakistan missed out on the IPL owing to diplomatic differences between the governments of Pakistan and India. So, if there’s one team that has everything to gain from this series, it’s Pakistan.
The both the T20 international matches of the series will be played at the Mahinda Rajapaksa International Cricket Stadium in Hambantota, south of Sri Lanka. Hambantota came into prominence after a massive Tsunami hit the region back in 2004. Hambantota was under-developed before the Tsunami and was devastated after it. The Sri Lankan government invested money in many large scale developments in the coastal city, one of which included a cricket stadium, which hosted a World cup game against Canada and a one day game against Australia in 2011. The wicket at Hambantota is good for batting and if you win the toss, your best bet is to bat first.
Head to headPakistan and Sri Lanka have played each other in seven T20 international matches and Pakistan has won five out of those. Even in Sri Lanka, Pakistan claimed only only encounter, back on 12 August 2009, by 52 runs. Shoaib Malik is the leading run scorer with 186 and Umar Gul is the leading bowler with 12 wickets.
Playing XIsPakistan has a new T20 captain in Mohd. Hafeez and he will be looking to make a mark. They have a lot of new faces in the side and they will be itching to prove their worth and quantify their selection. After all, it’s the best players of this side who will go on to play for their team in the World T20 tournament. Not too long ago, Misbah-Ul-Haq was asked to resign from T20 captaincy (his ODI and test captaincy remains) and subsequently removed from the Pakistan's T20 squad for this Sri Lankan tour.
Players that Pakistan will obviously be banking on and who will be the crowd pullers are: Mohd. Hafeez who this far has been unable to convert some good starts in to big innings. He’s a smart offspinner too and will be hoping to emerge as another good all-rounder for Pakistan. Shahid Afridi will obviously be one of the players to watch out for owing to his big hitting style and baggage of flair that he carries with him. Shoaib Malik will be looking to continue his domestic T20 success (Malik’s Sialkot Stallions won Pakistan’s domestic T20 league and will be first team to play in Champions league T20 later this year).
Pakistan (likely) : Mohammad Hafeez (c), Ahmed Shahzad, Khalid Latif, Umar Akmal (wk), Shoaib Mallik, Shahid Afridi, Hammad Azam, Sohail Tanvir, Saeed Ajmal, Umar Gul, Mohammad Sami.
Sri Lankan captain Mahela Jayawardene will be relying on his and his team’s recent IPL performances and will be hoping that they stay in good touch. Malinga, who just cancelled a contract to play for Middlesex as he was advised to rest, will be playing. He is likely to be an MVP for the home team. The naturally aggressive Dilshan will be one of the key players too. Captain Jayawardene had a decent outing with the Delhi Daredevils in the IPL and will be hoping to get better.
Sri Lanka (likely) : Tillakaratne Dilshan, Mahela Jayawardene (c), Kumar Sangakkara (wk), Dinesh Chandimal, Upul Tharanga, Angelo Mathews, Thisara Perera, Nuwan Kulasekara, Lasith Malinga, Sachithra Senanayake and Isuru Udana.
Captain's speak"Sri Lanka are always a tough opponent, especially at home, but we are well-prepared despite not having played international cricket recently", says new Pakistan T20 captain Mohammad Hafeez.
"With the World T20 coming up in a few months, this series against Pakistan is very important for us. We're using these two games to find the right combination so we will mix and match. We need to make a statement in this series", says Lankan skipper Mahela Jayawardene.