Another India – Sri Lanka series comes to an end. Such has been the frequency of cricket matches between these two Asian neighbours that sometimes one wonders whether Indian cricketers see their Lankan counter parts more than their friends and family.
Since 1985, when India first played Sri Lanka in a bilateral ODI series in Sri Lanka, India had never won an ODI series against them on their home soil till the MS Dhoni led side won the five match series 3-2 in 2008. That was followed by another 4-1 rout of the hosts in 2009 and now in 2012 another comfortable 4-1 series win in the emerald isles.
While the result itself is big positive considering Indian players were coming out of 5-6 weeks break, what have they gained from this series, individually? For starters, there were no new names who have been the architect of this series win for India.
Brightest spot for India was the form of their vice-captain, Virat Kohli. Kohli continued from where he had left in the last season, undeterred by an indifferent IPL in between. His appetite for big runs was intact and should hold them in good stead with the long home season comprising of 10 test matches coming up. Another positive for India was to see Gautam Gambhir letting his bat do the talking. He played 3 knocks under crucial situations which was a welcome change after a forgettable last season. Suresh Raina found his rhythm and runs which is very important for India’s ODI plans, because he along with MS Dhoni form a lethal finishing combination in a one day innings. Manoj Tiwary grabbed couple of chances that came his way and has ensured that he will be in India’s ODI’s plans atleast for the next series (which will be surprisingly in December against Pakistan) lest there is a dramatic slide in his form in the interim.
Biggest gain for India was the form of Irfan Pathan, who was a last minute inclusion in the squad at the expense of injured Vinay Kumar. Irfan played two sensible & important knocks, one during the chase with Raina and other while setting a target in the last ODI. The value he brings on the park with bat was never in question but India needs Irfan the bowling all-rounder more than Irfan the batting all-rounder and to his credit he was the highest wicket taker for India with 8 wickets at an average of 26.37, including a five wicket haul in the final ODI. Importantly for Irfan the inswing was back and it remains to be seen how MS Dhoni uses him in limited overs cricket especially with two new balls at each end in 50 over cricket.
Rohit Sharma continues to be an enigma for Indian cricket fans, a la Vinod Kambli in the 90’s. The team management showed tremendous faith in him just like they did in the tri-series in Australia, where even senior batsmen were rotated to accommodate him, but he was consistent with his failures. While the talent and class are there for everyone to see, it’s not getting translated into big runs for India, which is worrying. Had he performed in this series, who knows he might have pipped his immediate competitors for that vacant batting spot in the test line up.
Another equally worrying aspect if not more, is Virender Sehwag. Here is a man with the highest individual score in ODI cricket history, but he is seldom consistent in this format. A career average of 35 in limited overs cricket is not something one expects from a man who has an average of almost 51 in test cricket. Problem with Sehwag is that he tries to outdo himself by scoring faster than his test match strike rate, which is a healthy 82 runs per 100 balls. He may have a better strike rate in ODI’s but he is not getting the kind of runs his team expects from him. It’s about time someone senior like the coach Duncan Fletcher or even a Sachin Tendulkar sits with him and clearly lays down what the team expects from him in all forms of the game because runs from Virender Sehwag will ensure one thing and that is – demoralizing the opponent.
On the bowling front barring Irfan, there was not much to cheer for India. Though R. Ashwin’s economy rate was top class, as a premier spinner of the country, what captain would want is wickets. Zaheer Khan was there and there about without being at his menacing best whereas Ashok Dinda and Umesh Yadav were disappointments with both going over 6.5 runs per over. Death bowling continues to be a worry for MS Dhoni with none of his bowlers putting their hand up to deliver when it matters. In that sense India was lucky to have the cushion of runs in the close games which they were able close out.
So the main question remains. What did India gain out of this series? Answer is CONFIDENCE. As the saying goes; “From small beginnings come great things.” this series win should keep Indian team in good spirits for the challenges coming up.