Seasoned India can now focus on bigger battles
India proved too good for struggling Sri Lanka in subcontinent conditions in the Test series but the real challenge for Virat Kohli and Co will come when they play outside Asia.india vs sri lanka 2017 Updated: Aug 15, 2017 22:41 IST
R Ashwin and Cheteshwar Pujara completed 50 Tests during the series sweep against Sri Lanka; Virat Kohli is 60 Tests old and Ajinkya Rahane is 10 short of the half-century mark.
Ravindra Jadeja, Shikhar Dhawan, Mohammed Shami, Umesh Yadav and Wriddhiman Saha have played between 25 and 35 Tests. Together, their experience is considerable.
In terms of talent these players had underlined their potential from early in their careers, and a struggling Sri Lanka came in their way when they had become seasoned pros.
What stood out in India’s performances during their 3-0 clean sweep was the relentless pressure they applied on the opposition. Even on the couple of times Sri Lanka managed to throw something back at them, in the second innings at the Sinhalese Sports Club Test and in the second session of the first day in the third Test, India’s response was swift.
In the subcontinent, India are undisputed champions. Their test will start from the South Africa series. Chief selector, MSK Prasad, said on Monday: “We’ve been competitive in overseas conditions. Now, we want to take it to the next level and start winning there.”
KEY MEN TARGETTED
India had plans ready for Sri Lanka’s key players. Rangana Herath, Dinesh Chandimal, Angelo Mathews, Upul Tharanga and Dimuth Karunaratne were identified as the threats. Except for Karunaratne, the others were brought down with a clinical execution of plans. The left-handed opener countered India’s tactics, scoring 97 and 141, with the highlight being his battle with R Ashwin.
Herath was pushed to the backfoot in the first session of the series with Indian opener Shikhar Dhawan targeting him straightaway. The Indian batsmen neutralised Sri Lankan spinners by using their feet and the safer option of getting to the pitch of the ball.
Sri Lanka adopted a high-risk approach, and took on the spinners with cross-batted shots. The result was capitulation in five of the six innings. Only in the second Test did Kusal Mendis manage to middle all his shots against spinners, racing to a century. At Pallekele, they were again routed by the Indian spinners with Kuldeep Yadav and R Ashwin sharing the spoils.
WEAKEST LANKA SIDE
India chief coach Ravi Shastri called the Indian team the best to come to Sri Lanka. But the whitewash must also be put in perspective as it was the weakest Sri Lankan team India played since they first faced them in the early 1980s.
Injuries also left Sri Lanka depleted. Sri Lanka were reduced to 10 players on the first morning of the Galle Test due to Asela Gunaratne’s fielding injury. They then lost bowlers Nuwan Pradeep and Rangana Herath.
PANDYA’S BRIGHT START
The biggest gain of the series was Hardik Pandya. He still needs to add a few skills to be rated as a quality Test bowler, but batting is his forte. He didn’t take much time to showcase his potential, his maiden hundred an impact innings of the series like Shikhar Dhawan’s 190 at Galle.
Dhawan’s stunning comeback adds another dimension to this batting line-up. India now have great options in opening. His flamboyance will be an ideal foil for the technically sound KL Rahul and Murali Vijay. The No 3, 4 and 5 are settled with Cheteshwar Pujara, Virat Kohli and Ajinkya Rahane. The lower-order of Wriddhiman Saha, R Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja has consistently ground the opposition bowling with Pandya infusing dynamism to it.
Virat Kohli’s ability to keep his men on their toes also shone through. India were up and down on the field in the home series against Australia, but here the skipper was relentless. Even when the team was in control, he wouldn’t accept a misfield.
During the second Test, Shikhar Dhawan looked slightly lethargic at mid-on. A couple of balls later, Kohli signalled to him to switch places with Hardik Pandya.
First Published: Aug 15, 2017 21:24 IST