Sri Lanka vs India 2017: 5 questions India need to answer in the ODI series
If there was one series that could be a template to define the ceaseless dominance of one cricket team over other, it was the recently concluded Test series between India and Sri Lanka.
The Indian team was hosted by Dinesh Chandimal's men in their own backyard, but it seemed like the Sri Lankans were playing on another planet. A planet where it was difficult for them to even breathe, let alone play.
The Indians, however, were over the moon for the entire series.
They bowled well. They batted better. Even the toss, which has always been an antagonist for Virat Kohli, went his way in all the three matches. His side didn't exude weakness for even one session of the series, and went on to win it asserting power, ruthlessness and clinical professionalism through its length.
Maybe that is why they're the world No. 1 Test team in the world right now.
While Kohli's team seems to have everything sorted in the longest format of the game, it still needs to address some prominent issues in ODI cricket. With the ODI Cricket World Cup looming, finding answers to these imperative questions should be Job One for the Indian cricket management. They can put the same in motion in the upcoming ODI series against Sri Lanka, which is set to commence on Sunday, August 20.
#1 Where will MS Dhoni go from here?
MS deserves to go out on his own terms. If he believes he can play the next World Cup, who is to doubt him? He is a very modest and honest man. If he thinks he cannot contribute to India's cause in the World Cup, I don't think he will be there. At 36, he is still one of the fittest players. He knows his game and he looks after his body well. So he knows when to call it quits: Michael Hussey
Life is an irony.
The man with the Midas touch struggles to find his touch with the bat today. The same fans who worshipped his legacy are waiting for it to end. A skipper who lifted the World Cup for his country after 28 years, might not be a part of its upcoming edition.
Life is cruel. Sport is crueler.
The toughest challenge before Kohli and his team management is to sketch a roadmap for the remainder of MS Dhoni's international career.
If you consider where Dhoni stands as an Indian cricketer today, three things are surer than the next day:
Impeccable glovework: There is no wicket-keeper in the country who can go step-to-step (and glove-to-glove) with Dhoni's keeping prowess even today. The man's hands are as quick as a table tennis player, and his agility can put a youngster to shame. Moreover, his calls with respect to the DRS are so accurate that they might as well rename it to the Dhoni Review System!
Fit as a freak: Even today, 36-year-old is a living example of ultimate fitness and power not just in the Indian team, but in world cricket. His speed hasn't slowed by even a metre and he is a panther between the wickets. The recently-conducted yo-yo test at the NCA in Bangalore is another testament to his undoubtedle vigour: the entire Indian squad took the test, and only Manish Pandey and Kohli could overtake Dhoni as he managed to score better than everyone else in the team.
Tactical genius: The man from Jharkhand is still one of the quirkiest cricketing minds in the world. Indian batsman Ajinkya Rahane recently revealed how Dhoni's experience helps captaincy easier for Kohli. He helps the skipper in making difficult on-field calls and is always active in setting the field.
In spite of these points, doubt looms over Dhoni's ability as a batsman, and by extension, a finisher. His skills with the willow seem to be receding and are no longer akin to their former glory.
To answer this question, India first need to decide whether they want to take Dhoni to the 2019 World Cup in England. If yes, they need to establish a clear route for him and ensure that they extract the most from the veteran and his extensive experience.
Will batting higher up the order release the pressure on Dhoni's well-built shoulders? Can Hardik Pandya and Kedhar Jadhav take joint responsibility for fishing the innings? Should Rishabh Pant be groomed to fill Dhoni's big and bold shoes?
These questions are difficult to answer. The Sri Lanka series presents India with an opportunity to do the same!