Historically, Sri Lanka have never been this abysmal in a home series. They have been whitewashed in Tests on the island before, but never previously had they also been defeated in each of the ODIs. There is no denying it: Sri Lankan cricket is in an uncommonly dark place. What little pride remains is on the line in this T20.
If there is hope for the hosts, it is in the 2017 form of both sides. India have not been quite as mighty in T20s as they have been in Tests and ODIs, having lost two of their last four matches – though one of those was to World T20 champions West Indies.
For Sri Lanka, meanwhile, T20s are the only format in which they have a positive win-loss ratio, having beaten Australia and South Africa 2-1 before drawing the Bangladesh series 1-1. It must be mentioned, however, that the South Africa and Australia sides they defeated were substantially depleted teams. In fact, several of the best Australia players were in India preparing for the Tests when the T20s were on.
On paper, at least, Sri Lanka are not as woefully outgunned in the shortest format as they are in the others. Niroshan Dickwella approaches many of his innings like he is playing a T20 anyway. There are promising spinners in the squad. Even a diminished Lasith Malinga can be a threat over four overs.
But they are playing an India team that must now be so overflowing with confidence that even the staff at the hotel they are staying at have probably started walking around in unusually tight clothing, flashing grins at members of the opposite gender. There is a chance Sri Lanka will claim their first victory of the tour, but they still have to get past the likes of Virat Kohli, Jasprit Bumrah, and Rohit Sharma, and they are all in ridiculous form.
Sri Lanka LWLWW (completed matches, most recent first)
In the spotlight
Who knows what Lasith Malinga is thinking? Does he? One day after he had suggested retirement was far from his mind, even jesting that he would play till 2023, he said he may reconsider his playing future at the end of this tour. He has been modest through the ODI series, and throughout the last three months, really. If he can reclaim some form in the T20, however, the argument for sticking around for a few more series might grow stronger.
In some ways the new Malinga, just without the round-arm action, Jasprit Bumrah has proved himself more than just a yorker and slower-ball bowler in Sri Lanka, claiming 15 wickets in the ODIs – six more than the next-best bowler. He has also showed the knack of getting wickets after the batsmen began to attack him – most recently responding to an Upul Tharanga boundary with a vicious away-seamer that took the batsman’s edge. Bumrah is likely to be even more of a threat in the shortest format.
With the Sri Lanka team in flux (the selectors released no fewer than two T20I squads), it is difficult to pin down who will be in the XI. Whatever the case, Sri Lanka have only picked four specialist batsmen, so the side will be full of bowling options.
There was also some late news that Milinda Siriwardana had complained of hamstring tightness, and batsman Ashan Priyanjan was called in as cover. Siriwardana will likely undergo a fitness test on Wednesday to determine his participation.
Sri Lanka (possible): 1 Niroshan Dickwella (wk), 2 Upul Tharanga (capt), 3 Dilshan Munaweera, 4 Angelo Mathews, 5 Milinda Siriwardana/ Ashan Priyanjan, 6 Dasun Shanaka/Seekkuge Prasanna, 7 Thisara Perera, 8 Akila Dananjaya, 9 Jeffrey Vandersay, 10 Lasith Malinga, 11 Vikum Sanjaya.
Ajinkya Rahane and Shardul Thakur appear likeliest to miss out on selection for India. The wristspinners may also keep Axar Patel out of the XI.
India (possible): 1 Virat Kohli (capt), 2 Rohit Sharma, 3 KL Rahul, 4 Manish Pandey, 5 MS Dhoni (wk), 6 Kedar Jadav, 7 Hardik Pandya, 8 Kuldeep Yadav, 9 Bhuvneshwar Kumar, 10 Yuzvendra Chahal, 11 Jasprit Bumrah.
Pitch and conditions
Khettarama is generally not the highest-scoring T20 venue around, even 160 often proving a challenging total here. It has been a wet few days in Colombo, and it is possible rain will interrupt the match.
Stats and trivia
- Sri Lanka have lost six and won four T20s against India. Their most recent victory was in February last year, in Pune. They have lost three successive matches since.
- Khettarama has not been a happy venue for Sri Lanka T20 sides either. They have won only two out of 13 games in total.
- Virat Kohli’s T20I average of 52.96 is by a distance the best of anyone to have made over 1000 T20I runs. No one else has an average above 40.
Andrew Fidel Fernando is ESPNcricinfo’s Sri Lanka correspondent. @andrewffernando