India may have won the ODI series against Sri Lanka but the defeat in the last match spoiled their party to a significant extent. And Shikhar Dhawan and Hardik Pandya — two most experienced players in the team — should take the blame.
After six changes in the team for the final ODI — five on debut, a first instance for the Indians in many decades — it was imperative for the duo to do a lot more than they did.
Dhawan got out early on a day when the circumstances demanded more of him. In fact, after a match-winning 86* in the first game, he looked as if his heart wasn’t in it and consequently there was little application on his part at the crease in the last two games.
As captain, he appeared to be getting along well with the younger lot but there were no indications if he could inspire them too.
Hardik proved an even worse case. He did nothing, neither with the bat, nor with the ball. One wonders if his flashiness gets in the way of his getting more success than he has already achieved.
He was trapped successfully by Sri Lankan bowlers in the last two games. He didn’t get the opportunity to bat in the first and didn’t look focused at all, all through. However, biggest worry was his bowling that looked club-cricket at best. With the World T20 not far from kick-off, he needs to introspect as regards what he wants from his career.
Prithvi Shaw, Ishan Kishan, Suryakumar Yadav and Sanju Samson showed a lot of promise with the bat but they need to learn how to convert good starts into big scores. Forties and fifties won’t do for them in international cricket. Suryakumar particularly looked impressive in spin-friendly conditions and he looked in absolute control until he got out. His reading of the impressive Sri Lankan spinners struck one and all. He has the potential to be India’s answer to AB de Villiers but he needs to focus more.
Kuldeep Yadav, Yuzvendra Chahal and Krunal Pandya will also take a lot of confidence from their bowling. Particularly Kuldeep, who had been terribly devoid of opportunities prior to this series. He bowled beautifully in the first game and now needs to be consistent.
The series, however, from an Indian point of view, will be remembered for Deepak Chahar’s unbeaten 69 and his unbeaten 84-run eighth-wicket partnership with Bhuvneshwar Kumar that guided India to a famous win in the second ODI. Chahar’s temperament caught everyone’s attention and one now really hopes he goes from strength to strength from here.
One can’t say the same about Manish Pandey who was in desperate need of good scores but unfortunately that didn’t happen despite looking good in the second match, and now nobody knows when he is going to get another game in India colours. Navdeep Saini would feel the same: he bowled without any real pace in the only game he got. He should worry the management.
When all is said and done, India should have won 3-0 but some allowances can be made for the Rahul Dravid-led team management. Six changes in the last game suggested they were not overly keen on a whitewash but rather on trying out new players. On that count they have been successful. However, with a little more commitment from senior players, they could have achieved the whitewash too, no two ways about it.