The Indian team posing with the winners’ trophy for the second consecutive time after a T20I series. (Image courtesy: BCCI)The Indian shores have greeted their players well, and after a brief hiccup, which could be attributed to the extended hangover of a belated New Year celebration in Australia, the players are back to being at their most comfortable.Well, at least the scorecard from Ranchi suggested so, and if one looks at the one in Visakhapatnam, it wouldn't be much different in the Indian half of the card.The Sri Lankan half is where all the difference lies, as they looked in some bizarre kind of hurry to get done with the game. And, for those Sri Lankans who were patient, the job was done by the umpires.As India humiliated Sri Lanka by 9 wickets to clinch the 3-match T20I series 2-1, some questions were raised, while some others were answered.Here are 5 talking points from the game.
#1 Ravichandran Ashwin\'s brilliance
Like the previous game, India chose to open the bowling with Ashwin.
The move paid off immediately as India’s new new-ball bowler struck with his third ball to deceive Niroshan Dickwella in the air, and with the help of the prodigious turn that was on offer, got him stumped by Dhoni, who, grabbed the ball that Dickwella had missed and removed the bails with a speed that even Rudy Koertzen would have been ashamed of.
However, Ashwin had beaten the batsman by yards, and the slowest of stumpings by the fastest of wicket-keepers was enough to send the Lankan opener back. On the final ball of the same over, the Indian off-spinner trapped Tillakaratne Dilshan leg before to reduce Sri Lanka to 3/2.
In the third over, Ashwin saw the Sri Lankan captain, Dinesh Chandimal advance down the wicket, and dropped the ball a bit short to force a leading edge that culminated into a catch by Hardik Pandya.
Suddenly, the Lankans were tottering at 12/3 in the 3rd over, and perhaps this havoc was what convinced umpire Nandan that the attempted leg glance by Asela Gunaratne had actually hit the bat when Suresh Raina caught it at leg-slip.
Ashwin had his fourth- only for the replays to show that the ball had come off Gunaratne’s thighs- and now held the record for the best T20I figures by an Indian bowler that read 4-1-8-4.
The craftsmanship was at its belligerent best by Ashwin, as he varied the speeds of his deliveries, bowled carrom-balls, and altered his lengths to completely bamboozle the visitors.
#2 Umpiring blunders
With all due respect to the hue and cry surrounding the difficulties that umpires face while officiating, trusting the bowler’s and the keeper’s reputation while pronouncing decisions only makes you a Mark Benson, being who is not excusable.
On the last ball of the first over, Dilshan had a long stride out, when he was struck on the knee roll by an Ashwin delivery that had pitched outside the off-stump. The fielding side appealed, as they should, and after some deliberation, umpire Nandan gave him out.
While a leg-before decision is hard to argue against, the two howlers that followed raised serious questions over the need of an umpire from ICC's elite panel in T20I as well.
Gunaratne was given out caught, when the ball had brushed hit thighs. If we follow the most lenient of paths, and excuse that as well, which we should not, the dismissal of Sachithra Senanayake was a case of an umpire trusting the reputation of a renowned wicket-keeper and pronouncing his decision based on that.
In the 16th over, Senanayake slashed hard at a Raina delivery that was just outside the off-stump. He missed the ball, Dhoni collected it, whipped the bails first, but then appealed facing the umpire at the other end.
Raina never heard anything, but watching his captain go up, he turned around towards the umpire too with a half confused, half bemused face. The umpire, Nandan, again, perhaps trusted his fellow Indian’s prowess when it came to the activities behind the wicket, thought a second about Dhoni’s track-record, perhaps, and raised the finger.
Senanayake was stunned, and a few moments later everyone else was stunned too when the Ultra Edge showed no deflection whatsoever.
The ICC should look into the matter quite seriously now, as many a game, including this one, have been defined through dismissals that weren’t. Vineet Kulkarni and JP Duminy immediately spring to mind.
#3 Jasprit Bumrah\'s emergence
A life that’s only 22 years old and a career that’s only 6 T20I old should be termed as nascent, to be frank. But, if one watches him bowl dead straight yorkers, one would feel that he’s been playing for 22 years.
He bowled just one over inside the powerplay and was saved for the death. The very fact that MS Dhoni now has the luxury of saving a bowler’s overs and reserving them for the death are signs of a rendezvous.
Dilhara Fernando was the latest addition to his victims, taken down by the toe-crusher, and if Lasith Malinga was missed in the Lankan camp, Bumrah made sure that he completed the visitros’ craving in some manner.
He was 9 wickets from 6 games at an economy of 6.93, and come the Asia Cup and the World T20, this man would very well be India’s solution to their death bowling woes.
#4 Shikhar Dhawan\'s consistent run
Consistency and Shikhar Dhawan do not exactly go hand in hand. It is considering that fact that while measuring his consistency based on his last 10 limited-overs performances, his three single digit scores of 9, 5 and 6 have been ignored.
Except that, he has the numbers to show, in terms of four 50+ scores, including a hundred. The pitch wasn’t the easiest to bat on in Vizag, and a run a ball 45 that he scored with 5 boundaries and a six did show him in good light.
In his last 6 T20I he has scored 188 runs including a fifty and two 40s. India would hope that Dhawan carries on his extended good run in the matches to come.
#5 What\'s best of T20s- Flat decks, turners, or green tops?
Perhaps for the first time in a bilateral T20I series in India, we saw three completely different kinds of pitches.
While the teams were presented a grassy land in Pune, they were in for a barren desert in Ranchi. Here, in Vizag the pitch was slow and had some prodigious turn on offer.
Expectedly, what resulted due to these pitches were three completely different kinds of matches, two of which- the first and the last- were arguably decided at the toss.
Chandimal had sent India in on a green top with a trampoline-like bounce, and Dhoni returned the favour by asking Sri Lankans to bat first on a rank turner.
The inability of the batsmen from both sides were on display, as India surrendered to pace, bounce and seam movement while Sri Lanka submitted to the spin web.
With the flat decks being the norm now, everywhere in the subcontinent, the batsmen are found wanting against the slightest of changes in conditions.
Hence, the question that beckons, is that what kind of pitches suit the shortest format the best.
Those in favour of the leather whacking tamasha would certainly outnumber those would look forward to a contest that we saw in Mirpur today, in the Under 19 World Cup final- albeit that it was an ODI- and that’s because even in a line-up, the batsmen always outnumber the bowlers.
With bats getting thicker and thicker, the boundaries getting smaller and smaller, and rules getting stricter and stricter, in terms of powerplays, all a bowler can probably look forward to assistance from something that’s not mortal.
Had India batted a bit better in Pune, there would have been a game to watch. Unless one tries an experiment some time, one would never be aware of the possibilities.
The jury is out now.