The 1996 World Cup-winning captain, Arjuna Ranatunga recently castigated the Sri Lankan cricket board for hosting a second-string Indian team. However, the former Sri Lankan player seems to be ignorant of the bench strength that India possess. Team India can easily create two or three teams right now to compete with anyone in world cricket. Yesterday’s victory in the Colombo ODI was a testimony to the talent pool at India’s disposal.
With the triumph, India have pocketed the ODI series and this was hardly surprising considering the steep fall the island nation has had in the cricketing arena for the last 5 years or so. There are several important matches going on across the world right now and this series hardly elicited any interest even among India for obvious reasons. But for India, this series was the last chance to get some valuable practice in the shortest format before the T-20 World Cup to be held in the UAE and Oman in October 2021. Also, to assess some new talents before finalizing the squad for the big-ticket event.
Coming to the Colombo ODI, India did not have a smooth passage like in the first game. In a clear departure from the last match, Sri Lanka had India under the pump with no established batters to chase down a tricky score of 276. However, India found an unlikely hero in Deepak Chahar, who scripted a perfect heist in Colombo in holy alliances first with Krunal Pandya and then with Bhuvaneshwar Kumar. The Agra-born Chahar had the last laugh by hitting the winning runs and remained unbeaten on a well-deserved 69. Amidst the ruins, a 23-year-old Wanindu Hasaranga stood tall for the Lankans. On a favourable track, the leg-break bowler bamboozled the best of the Indian batters and got rid of Prithvi Shaw, Shikhar Dhawan and the dangerous Krunal Pandya. The only silver lining for a team looking to redeem themselves post some unsavoury happenings involving their players and the Lankan cricket board.
For far too long, India-Sri Lanka encounters have been a study in contrast with the men in blue getting the better of Lankan tigers on a majority of the occasions. With yesterday’s triumph, India have registered their 10th consecutive victory against Sri Lanka in the island nation. This shows the kind of dominance India have had over their friendly neighbour in the last few years. Lankans before this had a disastrous outing against England as well but the series was known more for the breach of discipline by the Lankan players in the UK. In the upcoming T-20 World Cup, the island nation has been placed in group A with Ireland, Namibia and Netherlands, where they have to win to be able to qualify to play with the top-ranked teams in the competition. This is clearly a gloomy scenario for a team that had won the T-20 World Cup in 2014 and were runners-up in 2009 and 2012 editions.
With one more ODI to go and having already won the ODI series, India might be tempted to include some new faces in the next match. However, with Rahul Dravid as the head coach, one thing is certain: this Indian team will be clinical in their approach notwithstanding the outcome of the series.