Indian spin depth to the fore against Sri Lanka in Dambulla ODI

Axar Patel and Yuzvendra Chahal have made the Indian spin department strong, despite the absence of Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja. Both of them performed well in the first ODI against Sri Lanka

india vs sri lanka 2017 Updated: Aug 20, 2017 20:18 IST
India vs Sri Lanka,Indian Cricket Team,Axar Patel
Axar Patel (right) and Yuzvendra Chahal (left) performed well for India against Sri Lanka in the first ODI in Dambulla.(REUTERS)

Even with Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja not playing in the series, it may not have been easy for the Indian team management to pick left-arm spinner Axar Patel over chinaman bowler Kuldeep Yadav for the first One-day International against Sri Lanka on Sunday.

Kuldeep gave a good account of himself in the one-day series win in the West Indies, and had a better grip on pitch conditions, claiming five wickets in India’s victory in the final Test against Sri Lanka at Pallekele to complete a series sweep.

READ | India vs Sri Lanka, 1st ODI, Highlights

However, Axar vindicated skipper Virat Kohli’s faith with a career-best haul of 3/34 to leave Sri Lanka reeling at the halfway mark of the opening game of the five-match series. Sri Lanka collapsed to 216 all out in 43.2 overs, losing their last nine wickets for 77 runs.

Pace-off

The Dambulla pitch didn’t afford too much help to the bowlers, pace or spin, but Kohli took the pace off to frustrate well-set openers Niroshan Dickwella and Dhanushka Gunathilaka.

Kohli wants his bowlers to take wickets, which he sees as the best way to keep the opposition down in ODIs. The 23-year-old Gujarat bowler has shown a knack for taking wickets. Axar has played 31 games now, and he not taken wickets in only four of them.

Although leg-spinner Yuzvendra Chahal went for some runs (2/60), he and Kedar Jadhav provided the initial breakthroughs. They came just when India were getting a tad restless as Dickwella and Gunathilaka had played out 14 overs.

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Axar used his height and produced just enough turn to keep the batsmen guessing. The attacking Kusal Mendis, who hit a century in the Test series going after Ashwin and Jadeja, was yorked trying to whip one to the on-side.

Jadhav, 32, whose attacking batting has stood out, provided vital wickets with his off-spin, delivered with a round-arm action. Deception was what got him both the wickets.

Dickwella was trapped in front, beaten by the pace of the delivery while new Sri Lanka skipper Upul Tharanga was lured into hoisting a slow full toss to be caught in the deep.

Although Chahal and Axar had not played for India in a while and Jadhav hasn’t played too many matches, the Indian Premier League experience helped all three to keep their calm, and use subtle variations to get their batsmen.

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Kohli declared on Saturday that the Sri Lanka series is the start of India’s effort to find the right combination, and the best way, heading into the 2019 World Cup.

If the 2013 and 2017 ICC Champions Trophy are anything to go by, pitches are likely to be more batsmen-friendly in England two years from now. Finding new options in India’s spin department could be a big advantage.

First Published: Aug 20, 2017 19:47 IST