Seeing the scoreboard, it would be very easy to conclude that India’s decision to field four medium pacers backfired.
But considering that the same ploy worked in their last game — and Sri Lanka also successfully struck to the plan against India in the last league game — there is no reason to bash the India skipper for including four medium pacers in the playing XI on Saturday.
However, there is every reason to criticise Dhoni for the manner in which he utilised the pace bowlers — Praveen Kumar, Ashish Nehra, Ishant Sharma and Munaf Patel.
What worked for Dhoni during India’s victory against New Zealand three nights ago was that all four bowlers were given reasonably longish spells.
However, Dhoni, it seems, was in with a plan to surprise the Sri Lankan batsmen up front. Once he was asked to field first after losing the toss, the skipper gave the ball to Patel instead of his regular pair of Kumar and Nehra.
It looked like the ploy was working as Patel extracted enough bounce to keep Mahela Jayawardene in check.
However, just after Patel bowled his second over without conceding a run to Jayawardene, Dhoni replaced him with Nehra in the sixth over.
Though Kumar wasn’t getting the ball to move in the air — something that is his forte — Ishant was brought in the very next over after the UP swing bowler had bowled just three.
This frequent changing of bowlers continued till the end of the innings. With Tillakaratne Dilshan in full flow, the bowlers’ confidence was anyway shattered. To add to that, the skipper’s tactics, aided by some pedestrian fielding, never allowed the India bowlers to look threatening.
The frequent changes in bowling were followed by long discussions in the middle during the change of ends.
All this combined to give Sri Lanka a mammoth total even as Dhoni looked in danger of being punished by match referee for taking 26 minutes more to finish his side’s quota of overs.