India condemned Sri Lanka to a 5-0 series whitewash with a six-wicket victory over Sri Lanka at Colombo, after having swept the Test series 3-0. It was deja vu all over again for Team India as like is the Test series, Sri Lanka failed to put up any sort of resistance against the “Men In Blue’.
India skipper Virat Kohli termed the tournament as a complete series. And he wasn’t wrong. The series result was impressive, but more spectacular was how India romped to victory. Regardless of the level of competition, the team was determined to hit the high notes. The comprehensive performances from Kohli and Co never gave Sri Lanka evan a whiff of victory.
The series was also seen as the first step towards preparations for the 2019 World Cup. Senior players like Umesh Yadav, Ravichandran Ashwin, Ravindra Jadeja and Mohammed Shami were rested, while Yuvraj Singh and Suresh Raina failed to make the cut. On the other hand, opportunities were provided to KL Rahul, Manish Pandey, Axar Patel, Yuzvendra Chahal, Kuldeep Yadav and Shardul Thakur.
The team management’s eyes are fixed on the upcoming ICC tournament and the aim is to form a core group going into the world event. And here are the lessons we learnt from India’s empathic victory:
Series win highlights India’s bench strength
The team management was criticised for not giving enough opportunities to youngsters on the West Indies tour, but that was not the case in Sri Lanka. Rahul, Pandey, Axar, Chahal, Kuldeep and Thakur were all tried out to test the depth of the squad.
In the absence of senior players, the newbies came to fore to shoulder the responsibility. India’s first choice spinners – Ravindra Jadeja and Ravichandran Ashwin – have failed to carry their Test forms into ODIs and that cost India big time in the Champions Trophy.
Axar, Chahal and Kuldeep impressed on this tour with their guile, control and the ability to take wickets. The vast array of skills of wrist spinners like Chahal and Kuldeep will also come in handy on flat pitches where finger spinners like Ashwin and Jadeja are known to come up short.
Pandey returned to the team after missing the Champions Trophy due to injury and impressed in his two outings. Rahul wasn’t at his best in the ODIs, but it’s well known that the opener enjoys the backing of the captain. Team management is in the process to restructure India’s middle-order, and in the absence of Yuvraj and Raina, Pandey and Rahul, along with Kedar Jadhav can help them fill the void.
Jasprit Bumrah is the undisputed leader of the pace battery
It’s not often that we see a pace bowler make the headlines in the subcontinent, but Jasprit Bumrah proved too hot to handle for the Sri Lankan batters. The 23-year-old was announced man of the series for taking 15 wickets in the series – a record haul by a fast bowler in a bilateral ODI series featuring five matches.
The Gujarat cricketer, who averaged 11.26, leaked runs at a measly economy rate of 3.90 and picked up a wicket in every 17 balls. He also clinched his maiden five-wicket haul in the third ODI. Bumrah, who is popular for bowling toe-crushing yorkers and slower deliveries, has added more varieties to his arsenal. His pace has gone up a few notches and he has developed quite an effective length ball.
Kohli was also full of praise for Bumrah after the series win and hailed the pacer for his performances in the shorter format over the last 18 months. The emphatic performance in the series has also helped Bumrah jump 27 spots in the ICC rankings to the fourth spot as he entered the top five rankings for the first time in his career.
MS Dhoni remains irreplaceable
Just when his place in the side was questioned, MS Dhoni proved his worth yet again with his all-round performance. The former skipper bailed the team out of trouble twice in the series. He remained unbeaten all the four times he went out to bat and became the first wicket-keeper to effect 100 stumpings in ODIs.
Dhoni might have lost some of his finishing prowess, but with his crucial knocks in the second and the third ODI, the veteran proved that experience is worth its weight in gold. In the Pallekele ODI, Dhoni stitched a 100-run partnership for the eight wicket with Bhuvneshwar Kumar to pull off a heist against the Lankans. In the next ODI, Rohit Sharma and Dhoni accomplished the chase with a 157-run stand for the fifth-wicket.
Dhoni has been Kohli’s go-to man in crunch situations and his match awareness and experience has made him a Decision Review System (DRS) expert of sorts. Besides his performances on the pitch, Dhoni also commands a massive influence on the dressing room and is an inspiration to many of the young cricketers.
The Indian team is yet to find a replacement for the Dhoni and for obvious reasons it cannot afford to move away from the 36-year-old at this juncture.
Feature image: AFP