The format changed, but the pattern didn't change much. Similar to the results of Tests, India decimated Sri Lanka in the first ODI at Dambulla by nine wickets.
Once again, as has been the case on this tour, Virat Kohli won the toss, Sri Lanka collapsed while batting and Shikhar Dhawan went hammer and tongs to lead India to a comprehensive victory. It's easy to miss out on individual performances when the result and the process become so monotonous. And the same happened after the Sunday match.
While Dhawan hogged the whole limelight with his another match-winning knock, Axar Patel's miser spell slipped under the radar. The Gujarat cricketer produced his best ODI bowling performance of 34/3 from 10 overs to contribute towards victory.
Patel was India's destructor-in-chief as Sri Lanka lost their last nine wickets for 77 runs and slid from solid 139-2 to 216. With the performance the left-arm spinner also staked claim as a replacement for Ravindra Jadeja in ODIs.
Test spinners - Ravichandran Ashwin & Jadeja - have been quite ineffective in recent past in the shorter format. Their inability to take wickets during the middle overs hurt Kohli-led side in the Champions Trophy final as they lost to Pakistan. And the team management will not mind having a difference-maker in their ranks.
Both Axar and Jadeja are similar sort of bowlers and are vying for the same spot in the team. However, a look at their ODI bowling stats will highlight that the 23-year-old spinner boasts a better record than the senior Test bowler.
One could complain that Axar has only played 31 ODIs in comparison to Jadeja's 136. In which case, it will be worth comparing their List A statistics to get a much clearer picture.
In both the cases, Axar has better economy rate, strike rate and average than Jadeja.
Statistics is one thing, but the ability to make an impact during the middle overs of a limited-overs match is what is required from a spinner. Jadeja, who is the world No. 1 bowler in Tests has failed to have the desired effect in the shorter format. In the five matches of Champions Trophy, Jadeja picked up mere four wickets at an average of 62.25 and leaked runs at an economy of close to six.
One of the issues with Jadeja has been his predictability. Though he is known for bowling tight lines and lengths, his lack of variations make it easy for a batsman to target him. On the other hand, Axar mixes up his bowling speeds and lengths to deceive a batsman - which should explain his better strike rate and bowling average.
Jadeja, however, is a brilliant fielder and has in the past turned the match in India's favour with his agility on the ground. Axar is seen as a safe pair of hands, but needs to enhance his reputation in that department. The southpaw has also displayed in IPL that he can come handy with the bat lower down the order.
The 2019 World Cup is now less then two years ago and hunt for the 15 members has begun. In the limited opportunities that he has got, Axar has shown he can be an upgrade on Jadeja. The important thing for him is to remain consistent to continue knocking on the selector's door.