India vs Sri Lanka: Spinners enjoy Premadasa’s boundary room
Playing conditions and playing combinations on view in the second T20I on Wednesday were exceptions, not the rule. Rarely do we get to see boundaries over 75 meters and over three degrees of turn for the spinners in T20 cricket that one saw at the Premadasa stadium. Even rarer is an imbalanced playing eleven, the kind India were forced to go in with after the latest isolation left them with only 5 specialist batsmen.
This low-scoring contest was a good example to underline how big a role these factors play in shaping the high-scoring T20 matches one is used to seeing. We saw very few adventurous strokes in India’s batting powerplay. With Bhuvneshwar Kumar due to bat at No.6, followed by the tail, openers Shikhar Dhawan and Ruturaj Gaikwad began with a low-risk approach. Gaikwad’s touch-play took India to 45-0 in the first six overs. On a wicket which had begun to take turn early, India would otherwise been a lot more attacking.
Once Gaikwad fell in the seventh over after a good-looking 21, no India batsmen found scoring easy. Dhawan 40 (42) was the only one to get five boundaries but even his strike rate remained below run-a-ball. “We knew we were one batsman short and had to construct our innings smartly and not go over-aggressive,” Dhawan said after the match. “We had to be constrained somewhere. We ended up 10-15 runs short.”
Wanindu Hasaranga, fresh from his move up to No.2 of the ICC rankings, and the multi-skilled Akila Dananjaya kept India in check. Even the usually hasty Sanju Samson had to be circumspect and lost his wicket before he could change gears. India got only eight boundaries, the fewest in this format where they batted 20 overs.
The Pandya brothers and Ravindra Jadeja for India, the Pandyas and Kieron Pollard for Mumbai Indians are a big reason their top order gets to bat freely. India didn’t have that flexibility on Wednesday. Sri Lanka coach Micky Arther later said India’s imbalanced team was one of the reasons they opted to field first. “We knew India couldn’t go too hard until with four overs to go,” he said.
LONGER BOUNDARIES AT COLOMBO
After the last match, leg-spinner Yuzvendra Chahal–he generally has to contend with flat pitches and short boundaries at Chinnaswamy stadium for RCB’s home matches–had spoken of how Colombo’s long boundaries were an opportunity for the spinners to make it count. “With a bigger outfield, I had told myself, if I can’t perform here, where else will I,” he said.
Spinners have made the bigger impact in the white-ball matches in Colombo. Be it traditional spinners–Chahal, Rahul Chahar, Hasaranga, Dananjaya, Praveen Jayawickrama or Kuldeep Yadav with his chinaman–they have all been in business and not just mystery-spinner Varun Chakravarthy. It has helped that the wickets have offered turn, but the spinners have dared to give the ball air from time to time, thanks to the cushion longer boundary ropes have provided.
“It is something you are not used to playing in India. Especially at the IPL, you see shorter boundaries. You see a lot of boundary sixes going,” said Indian bowling coach Paras Mhambrey.
In the three ODI matches, there were only a total of 10 sixes hit between the two sides. The two T20s so far have seen a total of 12 sixes, again a low score. “This is an opportunity for the spinners to toss the ball a little more. Since one part of the boundary is longer than the other. It is good to see that. It is also challenging for the batsmen. The boundaries are not easy to come. So, you need to work around with the singles and the doubles all the time. There is more running to do,” Mhambrey said.