It’s all been one-way traffic so far in the whole tour. Since India started the campaign in the first Test at Galle, everything has gone their way. Where the No.1 side proved its mettle in the longest format of the game, the colored clothing didn’t change that either. A scoreline of 3-0 in Tests and 5-0 in ODIs, doesn’t it look daunting already?
The tour is not over yet. The two sides are still to battle it out in the shortest format of the game. Won’t an additional 1-0 look great from India’s perspective? Well, that’s what Virat Kohli & Co. would be aiming for. On the contrary, the Sri Lankan side would be desperate to stop that from happening.
They have literally been crushed in all the games so far apart from the little period of 5-6 overs in the 2nd ODI where Akila Dananjaya brought a glimmer of hope and gave an impression that the legacy of spin bowling is still alive in the country but that too was overcome by the calmness of MS Dhoni and surprisingly, Bhuvneshwar Kumar. In all the matches, the Indian bowlers did a supreme job and the batsmen backed it up and always kept the side in the driver’s seat.
For the hosts, it’s been a nightmare. The batsmen didn’t deliver and the bowlers were highly ineffective. So, what lies ahead for the island nation? The last chance to salvage some pride on the ground where they have won so many matches in the past. But that’s only good for a thought because it’s going to take an effort that they have left years back.
Throughout the ODI series, the batting order promised a lot but never delivered. Niroshan Dickwella, on every occasion, started with a few blistering strokes but that’s all he had to offer. Upul Tharanga, fighting with the suspension clouds, failed to inspire the side. Angelo Mathews, on whom a lot was resting, more often than not found himself on a boat alone that wasn’t to find the shores.
The pattern of all the innings was inspired from the previous ones. The openers failed to provide the start, the middle-order steadied the ship but consumed a lot of deliveries and when the time arrived to launch, they all perished in quick successions to be bowled out on paltry scores. It’s time now the pattern changes. T20 cricket won’t allow them to consume deliveries and they’ll have to begin in the 4th gear.
The bowlers didn’t have too much to defend each time but they didn’t pose too much threat to the opposition either. Lasith Malinga, who is struggling for form, was easily picked by the Indian batsmen. There isn’t any other pacer who even made the batsmen sweat. The mystery of Dananjaya was solved quickly and he too traveled the distance. But the good news for them is that they don’t have to bowl long spells which means they can go for an all-out attack.
Malinga has been the star performer in T20s and the onus will be on him to restore some pride for the country. But the challenge for him is even bigger as the likes of Rohit Sharma and Hardik Pandya are aware of every trick that the pacer possesses. And Malinga against Kohli, let’s not even go down that road for now.
A lot has been said and written about how the Indian batsmen dominated the opposition and never allowed them to develop a threat. But the reality is that there are a handful of batsmen who didn’t do well. If we leave out Rohit, Kohli and Dhoni for now, KL Rahul had a terrible time, Kedar Jadhav failed on a couple of occasions barring the last match, Pandya didn’t look at his best either.
So it wasn’t flawless by any means. India always had either Kohli or Rohit who guided India past the line. Both these batsmen would perhaps open the innings for the side in the T20I. Manish Pandey did well on a couple of chances he got which would help him restore his place in the side. An opportunity is up for grabs for KL Rahul who might bat at No.3 and perhaps, it will define his place in the side for the near future.
Where we found a few dents in the batting, the bowling didn’t have many. Had Bhuvneshwar Kumar not picked those 5 wickets in the last ODI, he would have been a candidate for criticism but he showed why he is regarded so highly in the colored clothing.
Jasprit Bumrah, well the Indians still haven’t forgotten that no-ball of Edgbaston, yet he has done enough to remove those stains. A wonderful Man of Series performance with 15 wickets, it can’t get better than that for an Indian bowler. In the T20I, his worth is only going to get bigger.
The spinners Yuzvendra Chahal, Kuldeep Yadav and Axar Patel made the most of what was available for them. It’s going to be difficult to pick 2 out of them for the match. Axar Patel would get an edge due to his batting skills and Yuzvendra Chahal might feature as well, given the 6 wicket haul he bagged against England, the last time he played for India in the format.
Players to watch out for
The left-hander impressed in the Test series and there were hopes that he’ll make the difference in the ODIs. He threatened with those explosive strokes at the start but somehow, couldn’t convert those into something substantial. T20 cricket suits his style of batting and he is surely the one who can be a threat.
T20 cricket, Sri Lanka as an opponent; look no further than Virat Kohli to deliver for you. He suffered 2 low scores in the ODI series, but when he was due for a score, he emerged strongly with not just one but two centuries on the trot. The No.1 batsman in the format is the man for India to give the perfect clean-up on the tour.
Sri Lanka: Dilshan Munaweera, Niroshan Dickwella (wk), Upul Tharanga (c), Angelo Mathews, Seekkuge Prasanna, Milinda Siriwardana, Dasun Shanaka, Thisara Perera, Suranga Lakmal, Lasith Malinga, Akila Dananjaya
India: Virat Kohli (c), Rohit Sharma, KL Rahul, Manish Pandey, Kedar Jadhav, MS Dhoni (wk), Hardik Pandya, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Axar Patel, Yuzvendra Chahal, Jasprit Bumrah