India hope to sort out minor glitches in 5th ODI vs Sri Lanka, eye series whitewash
With a series lead of 4-0, the Indian cricket team is enjoying a two-day break ahead of the final match of the series vs Sri Lanka cricket team. Victory would be India’s fifth sweep of a five-match series, and third for Virat Kohli as skipperUpdated: Sep 02, 2017 18:43 IST
The Indian cricket team is unlikely to face much resistance in the bid to complete a sweep of the one-day series with victory over Sri Lanka in the final game at the R Premadasa Stadium in Colombo on Sunday.
Virat Kohli led from the front by top-scoring with 131 before the visitors handed Sri Lanka cricket team a 168-run defeat in the fourth match on Thursday, their biggest loss in terms of runs on home turf.
With a series lead of 4-0, the Indian cricket team is enjoying a two-day break ahead of the final match of the series. Victory would be India’s fifth sweep of a five-match series, and second against Sri Lanka. It would also be the third for Virat Kohli as skipper.
Although the opposition has hardly asked questions of India, the short break would have given the side to ponder over how to strengthen the side further, with a far stronger Australia looming as a bigger challenge in the home series starting once get back.
INDIA’S SAGGING MIDDLE
The biggest cause of concern would be the middle-order. The attempt to turn the talented opener KL Rahul into a middle-order batsman as part of the team management’s experiments in the build-up to the 2019 World Cup has failed miserably in this series.
The 25–year-old Karnataka batsman, a picture of assurance opening the batting, has looked completely out of sorts walking in to invariably face spin first up. It was less experiment and more of a forced change as Shikhar Dhawan and Rohit Sharma are both in great form and have cemented their spots at the top of the order in ODIs.
While KL Rahul did not bat in the first game, which India won by nine wickets, he has managed just 4, 17 and 7 in the last three matches. In fact, Sri Lanka’s only success in an otherwise poor series has been with their tactic for the batsman.
In each innings, spinner Akila Dananjaya got Rahul early. The first time he was bowled off a googly, and in the next, Rahul was caught in the deep as he tried to force things and take the bowler out of the attack. In the last game, Rahul fell trying to flick from outside the off-stump, only to give a tame catch to midwicket.
His India and Karnataka teammate, Manish Pandey, who is looking to cement a middle-order spot, explained after the fourth match that Rahul will need time to come good in his new role. Not facing pacers while batting in the middle-overs seems to have affected Rahul. In fact, the moment he came in, Sri Lanka brought on Dananjaya and he struck.
While Rahul grapples with his new role, Ajinkya Rahane has waited to get a game. Unable to get in as ODI opener, despite emerging Man-of-the-Series in the last series in the West Indies, the Test No. 5 has also not got a chance in the middle-order.
EXPERIMENT BEHIND STUMPS
India may not be able to afford the luxury of the middle-order repeatedly failing going forward, as it has in the current series.
The other role will be that of wicketkeeper-batsman, done with great success by MS Dhoni in this series. The team management is thrilled with his batting in the last three games (45 no, 67 no and 49 no), finishing touch and three century partnerships.
However, the focus on the former skipper is due to his age – he will be 38 when the 2019 World Cup is played – and it will be important to groom a second ’keeper-batsman.
The match showed to what extent Sri Lanka have slumped in this current tour of the Indian team. They have failed to get to 250 in the series, and only one batsman in each of the four games has got a half-century.
However, the hosts will be boosted by the return of skipper Upul Tharanga, after serving a two-match ban due to the team’s slow over rate. Opener Dhanushka Gunathilaka also could return if he has fully recovered from the shoulder injury suffered in the third ODI.
First Published: Sep 02, 2017 18:33 IST