Wednesday, 3 July 2013

Payback Time

Sri Lanka vs India matches in the recent past has associated with some common features. An OK, but not so good batting performance by the Sri Lankans. A Virat Kohli century, or a half at least. And of course an Indian victory. This seemed to be the pattern, and we were expecting a repeat of that tale again in the ODI in Jamaica. The script seemed to be perfectly matching when India won the toss and invited the Sri Lankans to bat first on a tricky wicket with overcast conditions. And then, the rest is history.

It could be fairly said that Sri Lanka covered up for around 3 ODI defeats against India from that match itself. A number of new records were created, including a special record of losing only one wicket for the entire 50 overs of the match, the first in ODI history.

Much is talked about the great knock played by Tharanga. Indeed it was by the batsman. None of us would have given him a chance, and was wondering after the first match with the way he struggled against the pace, why was he given a chance in the team again. However, he had the mental strength to overcome all those critics and replied with a bang. However, for me, still Upul Tharanga was struggling in his knock. It wasn't the swiftest of 174 runs I've seen Tharanga play. Even though he scored at will after the century, the first few overs were a struggle for him again. It could clearly be understood by comparing the ease with MJ batted. The master was able to counter the early demons in the pitch with aggression, taking on Umesh Yadav and Shami Ahmed, and then Ishanth Sharma, with utmost ease and perfection.

I happen to be a big fan of MJ opening the batting. He seem to be at his very natural best when opening, taking on the bowlers. Some may counter argue that he is a too good batsman to loose early in the match. But since he happens to be the best batsman in the team, in my ranks, he should be given the maximum time in the middle. And his record as an opener is quite staggering compared to coming at no.4. Plus, MJ opening the batting would clearly enable the ranks of Chandimal and Thirmanne to bat higher in the order, which I do believe is important. However, this would leave a bit of a headache for the selectors, as there are potentially 4 opening batsmen going on at the moment, with MJ, Dilshan, Tharanga and Kusal. The fact that Mahela opened in the team where Kusal was also playing, clearly demonstrates the thinking of the management. Maybe Sri Lankans were planning to use Kusal towards the latter end of the innings, including the power play. Therefore it seems like Kusal would not be opening for some time, except for T20s.

Sri Lanka seem to have found out another opening combination, in ML and Upul, but how is it going to adapt and change after Dilshan is back in the team?
The promotion of Angelo was a smart one, and it worked off. It would have been a choice between Angelo and Kusal to come at no.3 at that moment, and maybe to keep the right hand-left hand combination going, Angelo was sent. However he stuck to the task perfectly, taking his time initially and then going for the lusty blows.

India clearly seemed to be out of character. The killer instinct they showed in the CT13 was missing, and was evident the way the fielded. It is to be found out whether it was just an off day or the missing influence of the captain cool, MSD. On both occasions where India lost, MSD was missing in action, maybe signifying what a big role MSD is playing in the team. They never looked like they wanted to chase down the 348 runs. The bowlers of Sri Lanka stuck to the task of bowling line and length and to the field. If any team is going to chase down that total it should be India, with the kind of batting line up India posses. Taking Dhoni out of the equation, there is still Dhawan, Vijay, Kolhi, Rohit Sharma, Raina, Jadeja, DK. That list seem to be never ending, However the clear attitude of chasing down the target was missing and they well short of the target.

The surprise selection came in with Bhuvaneshwar Kumar being dropped or swapped for Shami Ahmed. Kumar has being the new sensation in the Indian bowling ranks, and it was quite surprising to see him being dropped in a surface like that, with the overcast conditions.

All in all, it could be well said the the payback time has started. Sri Lanka need to continue the winning habit, if they are to payback for all the suffering since the CWC2011 final in Mumbai. Focus should be on winning the next game, which can clearly knock India out of the tournament. After all, Sri Lanka do have some business to settle with the West Indians also.

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