Dominant India eye series win

Dominant India eye series win

Dominant India eye series win

It may not be a tell-tale sign but the fact that Sri Lanka chose to depute their spin bowling coach Roger Wijesuriya for the pre-match press-do on Saturday, perhaps, gave an indication of the visitors’ mindset.

It’s quite rare for a team to delegate a member of the support staff to address the media on such a short tour but possibly the Lankan players have ran out of all the excuses following two heavy defeats in Cuttack and Ahmedabad. Their performances so far have lacked both intent and purpose and they will have to pull off something out of the ordinary to stop the Indians from running away with the series.

A depleted India, admirably led by Virat Kohli, will be the overwhelming favourites to close out the five-match rubber 3-0 as the two teams clash in the third one-day international here at the Rajiv Gandhi International Stadium on Sunday.

Admittedly, Sri Lanka came largely unprepared so far as their skillsets were concerned. Having committed to physical training before they could host England for a seven-match ODI series, the islanders were snatched out from the middle of their rigour for the series against India.

Expectedly, they have been handed a sound thrashing by the Indians in the first two matches but it’s time Lanka showed some stomach for fight.

There is no doubt that India is a tough place for a visiting team. Not many teams can claim to have bearded India in their own den and Lanka’s record in India – they are yet to win an ODI series in India – has been one the worst for a top-Test playing nation.

Lanka, however, haven’t been able to beat India in the last three home series either since 2008. So, to solely blame the tough Indian conditions for their defeats doesn’t cut ice. With the series on the line, Lanka need to up their game. There was only a marginal improvement in their show in the second ODI but it was still far from convincing against the hosts who are working like a well-oiled machine.

The Indian batting has shaped like a dream with three batsmen producing as many centuries in the first two matches itself. Ishant Sharma, who claimed his best ODI figures in Cuttack, and Umesh Yadav have handled the new ball quite well while young left-arm spinner Axar Patel has combined his smart thinking with big heart to good effect.

This being a series to try out different players at various roles, India have mixed and matched their combination and have found great success in that regard.       

Virat Kohli’s captaincy too has been refreshing in the series. He has brought in new ideas and has made unconventional moves, proving that there is more to him than just his imperious batting. Apart from the minor but crucial bowling and fielding changes, his two big gambles have paid off handsomely.

In the first match, Kohli’s decision to take batting power play from overs 24-28 yielded 62 runs that changed the whole complexion of the innings. In the second tie, he held back himself and promoted Ambati Rayudu to No 3 position and the batsman returned the compliment with an unbeaten 121, his maiden ODI century.

What more tricks Kohli has up his sleeve before the rested MS Dhoni returns for the fourth one-dayer in Kolkata? Will paceman Dhawal Kulkarni get a chance or will he opt for all-rounder Stuart Binny, who had a fairly extensive session with both bat and ball during India’s nets with coach Duncan Fletcher spending a good deal of time with him?

In fact, with Lanka almost appearing as if they are here to make up just numbers, the only point of interest seems to be what new experiments India will carry out on Sunday.