Sri Lanka touring India for an ODI series- a team that looks a shadow of its former selftouring a team that is demolishing every team in its path with relative ease. Even a person hardly following cricket would be able to predict a whitewash, right? But what unfolded was anything but expected. We witnessed a Sri Lankan team that actually held its own and gave this Indian team a run for its money. Though the visiting team did eventually end up losing the series, the character the players displayed in the test and ODI series was something we’ve rarely seen of them in recent times.
1st ODI –Sri Lanka Comes Out All Guns Blazing
After winning the toss and putting the hosts into bat first, what was expected was the monotonous routine – India smashing the Sri Lankan bowlers all over the park, setting a daunting target to chase and then comfortably defending it. Atleast, this is what the fans expected! But what transpired next was something unbelievable. Sri Lankan bowlers, led by Suranga Lakmal, made the most of the swinging and seaming conditions in Dharamsala to expose the weaknesses of the India batsmen and rip through their star-studded batting line up. At 29-7, fans were fearing for the worst – that India would record the lowest ever score in the history of ODI cricket. I would be lying if I said I wasn’t one amongst those fans! But MS Dhoni, like on most occasions, was India’s savior as he scored a calculated 65, guiding India to a paltry 112. Though the Indian bowlers started well in their defense, Sri Lanka chased down the target with utmost ease, recording the win with 7 wickets and 176 balls remaining. The manner of Sri Lanka’s victory would have stunned its own sets of supporters, and it also made sure that Indians do not take them lightly.
2nd ODI – The ‘Hitman’ Show
1-0 up in the series, at the home of your arch rivals,you wouldn’t blame the Lankans if they were looking to repeat their performance of the 1st ODI and record, what would have been, the most unexpected and surprising ODI series victory.Rohit Sharma, though, had other plans. The captain showed why he can be one of the most destructive ODI batsmen of his day, with a breathtaking 3rd double century in limited overs cricket. His batting style is not too hard to comprehend – be watchful and accumulate runs until the 40th over, and then bat the opposition out of the game with some stunning stroke-play. At Mohali, he did just that. His 100 came off 116 balls. His next 107 runs came off just 37 balls, and he carried his bat with a 153-ball 208.With quick half centuries from Dhawan and Shreyas Iyer, India posted 392-4 at the end of their innings. Despite Angelo Mathews’ fighting century, for the visitors the total seemed a bit too far-fetched, as India trumped Sri Lanka by 141 runs to level the 3-match ODI series at 1-1.
3rd ODI – The ‘Spin Twins’ and the Gabbar Show
The opposition blazing their way to a score of 300+ and the Indian bowlers looking helpless, in comes the spin attack and bamboozles the opposition with game changing overs- how often have we seen this happen in Indian cricket in recent times. The only difference being, it was Kuldeep and Chahal on this occasion and not the usual pairing of Ashwin-Jadeja. One would feel sorry for Upul Tharanga, for his flawless 95 put Sri Lanka in a commanding position of 160-2 at the end of 27 overs. What we saw next was what we have come to know Sri Lanka for. They ended up losing 8 wickets for a mere 55 runs, setting the Indians a target of 216. Chases of 216 are generally one-sided and predictable, and when it is done in India by India, it is done in a ruthless manner. Courtesy a century from Dhawan and a well compiled 65 by Iyer, India comfortably beat Sri Lanka by 8 wickets, to claim its eighth straight series victory in ODIs, matching the great Australian side of the 2000s.
Sri Lanka scalped 16 wickets loosing 21 wickets to Indian bowlers in 3 matches. Rohit Sharma made 217 runs of the total 723 runs made by India accounting for 30%. India have Surprisingly , Angelo Mathews is Sri Lanka’s most economical bowler with 3.92 runs an over. The bowlers did not have a lot to show in the series as the best figures was the solitary 4 wicket haul by Lakmal.
Most Runs- Rohit Sharma 217 runs at average 108.50
Most Wickets- Yuzevendra Chahal 6 wickets at average of 17.67
Man of the series – Shikhar Dhawan 168 runs at average of 84
Fifth Umpire Champion of the series- Rohit Sharma
INDIA – JUGGERNAUT ROLLS ON
All in all, the series victory for India was the least that was expected of it. The manner of the victory though, both in tests and ODIs, would probably concern the Indian player a little, considering the much-awaited South Africa tour coming up in less than a month’s time. The over-reliance on Virat Kohli was clearly on display in the 1st ODI, when no batsman took responsibility to steady the ship and bat out the entirety of the 50 overs. Though India came back strongly and claimed the series, it will need to buckle up if itis to get results in South Africa. The positives, though, have to be Shreyas Iyer and the spin duo of Kuldeep-Chahal. Coming to bat in a position virtually owned by Virat Kohli, the 23-year oldIyer showed no signs of nerves after the 1st ODI as he flared his way to scores of 88 and 65. Also, the kind of control and consistency Kuldeep-Chahal have shown right through the series shows their maturity. Whether to go for the experience of Ashwin-Jadeja or the youthfulness of Kuldeep-Chahal is a good selection headache for the team management.
SRI LANKA- LOST IN SHADOWS
As for the Sri Lankans, credit has to be given where it’s due. Though they shot themselves in the foot in the final ODI, the kind of fight they’ve shown through the test and ODI series is commendable. They were in a position of command in the 1st test, and showed terrific resistance to see out the final test match as well. In the ODI series, they gave the Indian team a scare like no team has in recent times, bundling the team out for just 112 runs. However, with no individual brilliance, apart from Lakmal in the first ODI, the only positive for the Sri Lankan team would be the spirit it has shown throughout this series, ignoring what’s been said in the media and instead, concentrating on putting in a performance on the field.