India play Sri Lanka in the second game of the bilateral 5-match ODI series, on Tuesday. They would be looking to carry forward the positives from Saturday’s game, and get well and truly back in the winning habit. There were positives aplenty to take from the first match, but some areas as one would expect at the beginning of a new season need a little more limbering up.
Virender Sehwag! After the world record 219 against the West Indies, Sehwag had an absolutely abysmal Australia tour. His ODI scores have always been mercurial, but even Test matches weren’t any different. He didn’t feature in the Asia Cup, but showed that the hunger, the skill and the belligerence were still there in plentiful throughout the IPL. It was great to see him apply himself the way he did on Saturday, seeing off the initial tough period before settling down nicely on his way to 96.
Virat Kohli‘s innings building; Kohli, carried his sublime ODI touch to notch up another impressive ton. This is surely a man growing in stature day by day. He has shown character by putting a disappointing IPL season behind him and resuming India duties as if there was no gap between that brilliant 180 in Dhaka and this innings.
The final acceleration: the dash by Dhoni and Raina at the end was reminiscent of their early days, when these two were being groomed as the finishing pair for India in ODIs. Dhoni seemed to bat with much less apathy and much more freedom while Raina seems to be gaining in confidence, at least in subcontinent conditions.
The new-ball bowling: in the second half of the game it was Irfan Pathan who struck early, keeping the Sri Lankan top order in check with some controlled swing bowling. The bowling unit did keep picking wickets at important times. The overall success is underlined by the fact that a 100 from Sangakkara, and a late charge by him and Perera couldn’t save the day for Sri Lanka.
What needs a bit of polishing:
Batting starts. Gautam Gambhir got out in a strange manner that he isn’t a stranger to: shuffling across and seeing the ball graze his pads before hitting leg stump. A clear case of wrong judgement. Rohit Sharma on the other hand, looked rooted to the crease in his short stay. While just one false start may be a bit too early to judge their form, but it is certainly enough to put them on the list of rusty joints.
Death bowling. The creakiest cog right now seems to be the bowling in the dying stages of the innings. The start and middle overs were tight enough on the day to keep Sri Lanka far enough from their target, but it is evident that India’s achilles’ heel is still pretty much vulnerable. The batting or fielding may not be enough every time, to cover for the weakness in finishing the bowling innings.
Fielding. It’s always an area where one can do more. A couple of chances in the slips went down early on, and they could have cost India on another day.
What we’ll be hoping for:
A solid batting performance, especially from the likes of Rohit Sharma and Gautam Gambhir, who missed out the first time around. It is important to get as many batsmen match practice as possible.
More control over the death overs. New ball bowling is an art, but old ball bowling is probably tougher. It is important to preserve and accentuate the advantage gained by a tight opening spell as the innings wears on. India have shown this tendency to leak runs towards the end when the batsmen go for an all-out charge. It is as much about having contingency plans as it is about executing them.
India would be working towards getting these kins out of the system before the competition really heats up into the run up to the T20 World Cup. It will also help to have things in place as the season is just getting longer with a Pakistan tour now thrown into the mix. Still early days, though. Well begun is half won.