Rarely has a team dominated a one-day game in the manner Sri Lanka did against India at Kingston on Tuesday. Right from the start, the Indians were completely clueless as they were badgered by the Lankans, first with the bat and later with the ball. The extent of Lanka’s domination in the game can be gauged from the fact that for the first time in the four-decade long history of one-day internationals, a team batted out their full quota of 50 overs and lost just one wicket. Perhaps the only thing India did right in the game was winning the toss.
Having asked Sri Lanka to bat first under what seemed like somewhat bowler-friendly conditions, India needed early wickets. But, the absence of Bhuvneshwar Kumar at the top of the order hurt them. In a short ODI career, Kumar has taken on the role of providing the early breakthroughs for the side consistently to quite a credible extent. Shami Ahmed was clearly found wanting in this aspect. Another great strength of Kumar is his accuracy, and in this department as well, Ahmed let the side down. Mind you, it would be harsh to lay much blame on Ahmed as he is a rookie, but the better prepared guys were pathetic to say the least.
With Kumar out, much was expected of the experienced duo of Ishant Sharma and Umesh Yadav. Instead, they dished out some utter crap, which the Sri Lankan openers accepted gleefully. The fast bowling duo has been around for a while now, Sharma in particular, but has done little justice topotential. It shouldn’t be long before their places in the playing eleven must be questioned. Surely, India cannot keep carrying them along for long if they continue to underperform. Ravichandran Ashwin’s limitations when the opposition is on top were clearly evidently as he struggled to make any sort of an impression.
In spite of the fact that India were facing a daunting task, they should have approached the target with confidence since they have chased down similar mammoth scores in the past. The difference this time though was the ease with which the Lankans pummeled the Indian bowlers. It had such a demoralising effect on the Indian players that they came out to batwith a defeatist attitude. The guiding hand of the experienced leader MS Dhoni was certainly missed out in the middle and with the pressure of captaincy on his shoulders Virat Kohli could not do a Hobart encore.
Even as the Indians were listless, nothing should be taken away from the manner in which Lanka’s openers batted. Both Upul Tharanga and Mahela Jayawardene were under pressure for sure – the former was batting for a place in the team while the latter hadn’t scored an ODI hundred in two years. The two men however took the challenge by the scruff of the neck and responded in astonishing fashion. Not once did they look like getting out, and when they did the Indian fielders gave them reprieves.
Following the massive loss, India will now have to win their next two games handsomely to stay in the hunt. And they might still not make it to the final. May be, just may be, this humungous defeat has sealed their fate in the series.
--By A Cricket Analyst