That India and Sri Lanka play each other too often is a well-known fact. However, things are getting a tad bit repetitive of late.
When we toured Sri Lanka earlier this year, we won the Test series 3-0. Then we won the ODI series 3-0. Then we won the T20 series 3-0. It was like watching an action replay again and again—only the overs were getting lesser and lesser.
Now as they tour India, it’s another action replay! At the beginning of the Test series, Sri Lanka made a sensational start as they had India at 79/6 and then 128/8 in the first innings of the first Test.
It was all downhill after that. A rearguard action saw India reach 172. Then Lanka were at 200/4 and could have well shut us out of the match but they crashed to 294 all down. In the end a shortened game saved Sri Lanka.
They got thrashed in the second Test and broke Team India’s rhythm (wearing masks and appealing against Delhi’s pollution) to prevent a likely Virat Kohli triple century to eke out a draw. Had there been no reduction of overs, then Sri Lanka may have lost 2-0 or even 3-0.
The ODI series followed the same script. In the first ODI while batting first, India was 29/7, a truly horrific score. To put things in perspective, the lowest-ever ODI score in history is 35 and India’s lowest in 54. India dodged both bullets to make 112, but still got thrashed by 7 wickets with nearly 30 overs to spare.
Interestingly, it was fast bowler Suranga Lakmal who did maximum damage at the beginning of both the Test and ODI series.
One really thought parity would be restored and it would be a competitive series thereafter.
But that was not to be. In the second ODI, Sri Lanka was simply blown away by a Rohit Sharma double century. They lost by a good 141 runs.You may remember the Rajkot ODI of 2009. India batted first and scored a formidable 414/7. Sri Lanka still fought back and made 411 thanks to a small collapse at the end as they were favourites towards the end. Gone are those days!
In a way the third and final ODI at Vizag was even worse. At one stage Sri Lanka was 136-1.
They say you can double your score after 30 overs and at that stage Sri Lanka had made 175 and if you double that you get 350!
And Sri Lanka made 215 all down, a really spectacular collapse. After that Sri Lanka didn’t even give a fight. Shoddy fielding, a dropped catch here and there and listless bowling saw India romp home comfortably with 8 wickets and close to 18 overs to spare
Two wide balls went for four and the Lankans even bowled a hat-trick of wides. How many times have you seen that happen, especially in low-scoring games! That hat-trick was followed by four byes in the same over.
Sri Lanka in the end lost another bilateral series and they have won none in India and none against India at home since 2008. Those are really damning statistics. Sri Lanka had many greats from the 1990s: Aravinda de Silva, Arjuna Ranatunga, Muttiah Muralitharan, Chaminda Vaas and Sanath Jayasuriya.
However after Kumar Sangakkara and Mahela Jayawardene retired in 2015, this team looks totally clueless. But it’s not as if they don’t have talent. Rangana Herath has more than 400 Test wickets. He looked totally harmless against India in his home Test series.
Angelo Mathews can be Sri Lanka’s greatest all-rounder ever. But with India, in the recent times, he has had more misses than hits. He did hit a century, but it was in a losing cause in the second ODI. Niroshan Dickwella has all the big shots in his game, but he consistently threw his wickets away.
Upul Tharanga has 15 ODI centuries and looked good to get 150 at Vizag and take his team closer to 350. But his innings ended on 95 (82) and so did their series fightback. Tharanga also had a fine 49 in the first ODI.
Of course all’s not well with India too. Kohli missed his first ODI in ages and India collapsed to first 29-7 and then 112-10. Team India’s dependence on Kohli in the 2010s is reminiscent of our dependence on Sachin Tendulkar in the 1990s.
A brilliant Rohit double century saved us after that but that won’t always happen. Our spinners continue to delight and this time Yuzvendra Chahal and Kuldeep Yadav shone. But more than spinners, we need a battery of fast bowlers on foreign pitches.
As said many times before, our fast bowlers have a habit of collapsing regularly. Jasprit Bumrah is our strike bowler but he had an off day in the last ICC Champions Trophy final and that was one of the reasons why Pakistan batted us out of the match.
Even in the final Vizag ODI, Hardik Pandya got hit for five straight fours. India is doing great, but some chinks are showing and of course nothing that can’t be totally rectified before the all-important South Africa tour.
There were many positives apart from Rohit’s spectacular third ODI double century. MS Dhoni continued to be iffy behind the stumps and his 65 in the first ODI saved us some blushes.
Shikhar Dhawan ended things with a bang, thanks to his blistering match-winning century. The find of the series was Shreyas Iyer: He hit a brisk 88 off 70 in the second ODI and 65 off 63 in the third.
In India in Sri Lanka, we had three straight whitewashes.
In Sri Lanka in India, our opponents flattered to deceive in both the Test and ODI series and will the T20 series go the same way?
Sri Lanka will definitely hope not as India would continue being a bridge too far for them.Meanwhile, after the 9-0 on Sri Lankan soil, the Indians must be wondering whether they peaked too early and the home series have been the ideal preparation for the much tougher upcoming South African tour where they have to give a command performance and can afford to make no mistakes at all.
The author is a Bangalore-based journalist and blogger. He blogs here