The Indian team had a forgettable day in the office on Thursday when they were defeated by Sri Lanka at the Oval. India, put into bat, did extremely well to get to 321-6, before the Sri Lankans pulled off a clinical run-chase and cruised past the target in the penultimate over, winning by 7 wickets.
Sri Lanka’s chase equaled their highest run-chase in ODIs; they had chased the same target – 322 – against England in 2006 too, on that occasion winning by 8 wickets.
The Indian team will no doubt be disappointed with Thursday’s result; they are the defending champions of the Champions Trophy, are the higher ranked team in the ICC ODI rankings, have a line-up filled with match-winners – and were therefore overwhelming favourites to win the contest. But Sri Lanka believed they could compete, kept themselves in the contest with almost all the batsmen scoring runs, and never took the foot off the pedal.
Wrong Role for Pandya
India had had a near-perfect match against archrivals Pakistan a couple of days ago, but on Thursday they were sloppy in a few areas. It has been observed in these columns previously that Hardik Pandya isn’t quite a 10-over bowler; yet India built their strategies around having him as a complete quota bowler and it backfired. Against Sri Lanka, who had fielded a few left-handers in the line-up, there was every reason for India to include Ravichandran Ashwin; they didn’t, and were clearly one bowler short.
Further, the fielders were guilty of putting down catches in the field and even missed run out opportunities on a couple of instances. On the batting front, Sri Lanka were definitely more efficient and busy in the middle overs; Sri Lanka scored 203 runs between overs 11 & 40, while India only managed 170 runs despite having a solid platform from which to build.
The match against Sri Lanka is history now, and while the Indian camp should definitely revisit the match to identify areas they can improve upon, they should also look to build on the positives from the match.
Positives for Team India
Rohit Sharma and Shikhar Dhawan were like a wall at the top of the innings; the pair were instrumental in giving India a sound platform from which the middle order could explode in the previous match against Pakistan, and they repeated their act on Thursday morning.
Dhawan and Rohit, who became the most successful opening pair in the ICC Champions Trophy, have now improved on their partnership between them on each of the last five occasions they have batted together; they have now been involved in partnerships of 123, 136 & 138 in the last three matches and have become the first Indian pair to post three consecutive century partnerships in ODIs.
Rohit and Shikhar are stroke-makers by instinct, but both batsmen appear to have worked out a method that seems to be working well. Their template – as seen in recent times and which was used against Sri Lanka – is to start cautiously, not lose a wicket early on, bat for long periods of time, and accelerate as the innings progresses.
At the Oval, they scored just under five runs an over in the first powerplay, but then steadily accelerated; by the time they were separated, India were 138/1 in 24.5 overs – that’s a run-rate of 5.56 and a very good position to be in.
Dhawan’s Pet Event
Rohit Sharma was dismissed for 78, but Dhawan ensured that he would convert his start into a big score and went on to post his tenth hundred in ODIs. After his third century in the ICC Champions Trophy – which puts him alongside Chris Gayle, Sourav Ganguly and Herschelle Gibbs as the men with the most hundreds in the ICCCT – Dhawan now has phenomenal numbers in the competition; he has scored at least a half-century in five of the seven ICCCT matches he has played in, and averages an incredible 92.67!
Dhawan Among India’s Most Successful Openers
In the context of opening batsmen from India, Shikhar Dhawan doesn’t get as much respect for his accomplishments as he deserves. The two legends - Sachin Tendulkar and Sourav Ganguly - set the benchmark extremely high during their playing days, and comparisons will always be drawn to them.
But Shikhar Dhawan has held his own very well; despite losing his place in the Test team, Dhawan’s one-day game has been largely unaffected. Among Indian openers, only the two legends – Ganguly and Tendulkar, followed by a third legend – Virender Sehwag, have scored more hundreds than Dhawan has.
In the last few years, he has not gone more than 4 consecutive innings without scoring a half-century; surely, that’s an acceptable degree of consistency for a batsman who faces the new ball and has fielders close in.
Here’s another statistic to illustrate that Dhawan has been pretty successful but doesn’t get his due. After 78 ODIs – which is how many Shikhar Dhawan has currently played, only Quinton de Kock (12) and Hashim Amla (11) had scored more hundreds than Dhawan’s tally of 10. Yet, while the cricket world sings praises of de Kock and Amla, Dhawan’s consistency hardly gets a mention. About time we recognize Dhawan’s consistency in the one-day format.
The numbers will come in handy when preparing for the final group match of the tournament. India take on South Africa on Sunday now in a must-win match, while Sri Lanka faces Pakistan on Monday. With all four teams having two points each in the group, whoever wins the match will progress into the semis.