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Sri Lanka surprised themselves with this performance

Ajay Ratra
282   //    15 Aug 2017, 23:38 IST

Sri Lanka
Sri Lanka were routed 3-0 at home by India

That Sri Lanka were nowhere close to being at their imperious best was a foregone conclusion, but the way they squandered the series came as a surprise to me. In all three Tests, the hosts faced the prospect of following-on, although India didn't enforce it in Galle. Truth be told, Sri Lanka played like amateur cricketers.

The seemingly never-ending transition phase doesn't seem to end for Sri Lanka; the replacements for Kumar Sangakkara, Mahela Jayawardena, and Tillakaratne Dilshan are yet to be unearthed and although the young guns are talented, they don't possess the consistency level that's required at the Test level.

Losing to Zimbabwe at home was demoralizing, and that defeat ushered in a host of changes -- right from the captaincy to the roles of different players in the team. And the way India played this series compounded the problems of the hosts.

Kuldeep, Pandya Test prospects

I was of the opinion, especially after the way Kuldeep Yadav played in his debut Test in Dharamsala, that he'd be given all three Tests of this series. There was a probability of India playing three spinners on these surfaces. But with the emergence of Hardik Pandya, the all-rounder who was the find of the series for India, Yadav didn't get many chances.

He got his break only because Jadeja was suspended, and having said that, it must not be forgotten that Jadeja was, until recently, the No. 1 all-rounder in the ICC's Test Rankings and is still the No. 1 bowler. But yes, Yadav is someone who should definitely remain in the scheme of things.

The way Pandya has batted so far in his career, one can say that his ability to hit the long ball remains unparalleled. Scoring a Test-match hundred is no mean feat and that you've scored a Test century also means that you know how to pace your innings.

Given in the conditions in which he came out to bat, with India already six down, and the way he batted with the tailenders while farming the strike on most occasions and playing what is has traditionally been known as high-risk cricket, this hundred was not at all easy to get despite the quality of bowling he was faced with.

The last-wicket partnership of 60-odd runs, out of which Umesh Yadav scored only 3, goes on to prove that Pandya possesses a sensible head, can bat well and although he hasn't picked up many wickets, it can be observed that Pandya brings pace in his deliveries; and pace is a major weapon for any fast bowler. Looking at these aspects and given his age (23) he can go on to become a potent all-rounder for India.

Selection committee looking at the future

Hardik Pandya was the find of the series for India

The selection committee has identified a pool of 20-25 players who would be rotated and given opportunities in the lead-up to the 2019 World Cup. Yuvraj Singh, for example, has been rested for the upcoming ODI series and there are chances that someone else will be rested for the limited-overs endeavours that are to follow.

There are plenty of ODIs to follow this series; Australia are playing India right after this tour, followed by New Zealand, and a return visit by Sri Lanka. The tour to South Africa, a tougher challenge in all formats, would follow thereafter.

So this pool of players that has been identified would be given opportunities to determine the best-possible combination for the 2019 World Cup, which is the right thing to do. Senior fast bowlers like Umesh Yadav and Mohammad Shami have been rested, but Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Jasprit Bumrah have been continued with.

Kuldeep was a part of the last limited-overs squad while Yuzvendra Chahal was a part of the T20 squad that played England in January. Therefore, the pool of cricketers in limited-overs cricket has been extended and experimented with.

Also, rewarding players who perform during the 'A' tours has come as a positive sign for Indian cricket. Shardul Thakur has been rewarded for his performances with the 'A' side, for example. So it's not just domestic cricket or the IPL, but also these 'A' tours that come as an opportunity for selection to the senior side, which augurs very well for all the players.

What this has also done is that it has increased the competitiveness within the side and also amongst the fringe players. Kuldeep made full use of the opportunity handed over to him at Jadeja's behest, Dhawan gave a man-of-the-series performance after being brought in as Murali Vijay's replacement and now with the selection of the ODI squad -- with just rewards for performances with the 'A' teams -- the competition has gotten tougher.

If you look at it the other way, the bench strength of this Indian set-up is amongst the strongest in the world, unlike their Lankan counterparts who have neither been replenished with youngsters with the temperament to play Test cricket nor have they been fortified by contributions from their seniors.

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Ajay Ratra
Ajay Ratra is a former international cricketer who played 6 Tests and 12 ODIs for India.
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