Sri Lanka vs India 2017: Five talking points from the Test series
Virat Kohli's success story as India's Test captain has extended itself yet again. The newest chapter of this saga describes the team's ruthless performance in the recently concluded series against Sri Lanka, where they whitewashed the hosts in a thumping 3-0 victory.
The best thing about this victory was that each win was greater in margin than the one preceding it.
Here's a look at the dominant results that India managed to pull off over the course of the 3-match series:
1st Test: July 26 to 30, Galle: India won by 304 runs
2nd Test: Aug 3 to 7, Colombo: India won by an innings and 53 runs
3rd Test: Aug 12 to 16, Pallekele: India won by an innings and 171 runs
An array of positives will emerge for India after this series, just as a bunch of problems will latch itself onto anyone who is involved with Sri Lankan cricket. Here is a list of the top five talking points of the series, with respect to both the participating teams:
#1 The emergence of Hardik Pandya
It is always better to shock people and change their expectations than to give them exactly what they think you can do: Jonah Hill
When Hardik Pandya made his international debut in January last year, no one gave him a second glance. He seemed to be a run-of-the-mill all-rounder of the new era who bowled with an average of 30 and batted lower down the order just to belt a few into the crowd in the death overs.
He did just that for a year. He was a lightning-quick fielder, a useful fourth/fifth bowler and he knew how to swing the willow: the salient features of a modern day limited overs batsman. He performed brilliantly in the ICC Champions Trophy that was hosted in England this June, and won plaudits from cricket experts all over the world.
In spite of his heroics in one-day cricket, he wasn't considered for Test matches. No one even thought of trying him out in the longest format of the game, and rightly so: he had no first-class centuries and had not shown a smidgen of the temperament that is such a pre-requisite to playing Test cricket.
The selectors decided to try him out for the Sri Lanka series though, and the youngster grabbed the (unexpected) opportunity with both hands. He performed well throughout the series, and silenced naysayers every time he set foot on the field.
He played three matches, bowled 32 overs and picked up four wickets with a bowling average of 23.75 to go with an economy of 2.96: his numbers with the ball are impressive, but they don't even come close to his exploits with the bat. He walked out to the middle just three times in the entire series and ended up scoring 178 runs at an average of 59.33 with a fifty and a perfectly-paced hundred.
The biggest positive from Pandya's successful introduction to Test cricket was how he seemed to be more at home with every passing game. There was steady improvement and an increasing sense of belief that he belonged at this level.
When he came out to bat in the first two Tests, the situation was tailor-made for him. The 23-year-old just had to come in and ameliorate on a good foundation, like he always does. The third Test, though, was a challenge for the man from Gujarat. He walked into a tricky phase of the game, when the Indian score read 322/6 and it looked like the hosts had a real chance of matching up to Kohli's men for the first time in the series.
Pandya, however, had other plans. He dug in, let the storm pass, and scored his first fifty runs in a slow, steady and seamless manner. The Sri Lankans were already deflated by then. What followed was a sheer decimation of the bowling attack, as Pandya shed his defensive skin and unleashed his natural game on the proceedings. He smashed 26 runs in an over and scored his next fifty runs at rapid pace.
The right-hander was declared the Man of the Match for the innings, and in the post-match presentation, Kohli declared that Pandya was the biggest positive for India from the series.
It can't get any better for the youngster in his maiden series, can it?