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India vs Sri Lanka | How and where India lost first ODI in Dharamshala

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India vs Sri Lanka | How and where India lost first ODI in Dharamshala

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Bastab K Parida


Suranga Lakmal had the field day in Dharamsala as he single-handedly dismantled the Indian batting order to end Sri Lanka's 12-match ODI losing streak. The game raised questions on India's batting ability against the moving ball, and also came as a warning sign ahead of the South Africa tour.

Sri Lankan bowlers strike gold right away

Due to the high altitude and cold conditions in Dharamshala, the wicket has always been touted as a bowler’s paradise. And today, with the strip having a tinge of grass on it, Thisara Perera asked the Indian team to bat first, but one would hardly have guessed that the hosts were in for a surprise. Suranga Lakmal and Angelo Mathews operated with two new balls from two ends and got the ball to move around quite a bit. Interestingly, they decided to land the ball on good-length spots, or slightly shorter, that basically served the purpose of not allowing the batsmen to open their arms. While in limited-overs cricket, good length balls don’t usually create a lot of wicket-taking chances, it forces the batsman to go for the attack and in turn, results in dismissal. However, today, with the ball moving around thanks to the atmospheric conditions that had more moisture than normal, the Lankan duo tested Indian batter’s patience to the limit. 

Due to the lack of bounce and purchase, Lakmal completely relied on the swing and to their credit, they didn’t deviate from their line at all. He, along with Matthews and Nuwan Pradeep, kept on mixing the away-swingers and in-swingers and kept the Indian batsmen guessing. As a result, the top-order batsmen failed to bring their trigger movement to hit the ball on the off-side. And also by landing the ball almost at the fourth stump line, Lakmal made sure that the batsmen remained indecisive with their footwork and therefore shot selection and the right-arm medium-fast bowler registered his career-best figure of 10-4-13-4.

Seam bowlers to right-handers in the India innings © Cricinfo

South Africa bound? Learn lessons quickly

The vicious movement generated by the Sri Lankan pacers and India’s batting fragility went hand in hand in Rohit Sharma's captaincy debut. While Lakmal and Mathews looked unplayable on a pitch that offered plenty of movement, the Indian batsmen failed to get their footwork right and therefore erred in shot selection. 

From the very first ball of the over, Shikhar Dhawan tried to put pressure on the opposition through cross-batted strokes, but Mathews’ angled full deliveries moved away from his drives. However, when Mathews nipped one back into Dhawan to beat his inside edge, the Indian was clueless as the ball struck him in front of middle to give the visitors their first wicket. Although Rohit Sharma played the line, too much away seam movement meant he got an outside edge. After Rohit’s dismissal, the Indian batsmen only tried to weather the testing period and that also meant that Sri Lanka didn't need to alter their own approach, nipping the ball both ways to surprise Indian batsmen. Although MS Dhoni managed to score a fighting knock of 65 runs that helped India avoid a total humiliation, by then the batting was way easier and the ball was old enough to lose its shine. But as much as the failure to see off the new ball was the main reason of India’s loss today, it also came as a warning sign for the hosts who are now preparing for their biggest sojourn in three years – a full-fledged trip to South Africa.   

Beehive Placement of the seam bowlers to all batsmen in India innings © Cricinfo

India got the combination horribly wrong

In the pre-match press conference yesterday, skipper Rohit Sharma had reckoned that the Dharamsala wicket was a good one to bat and after being asked to bat first, also mentioned that he would have batted first anyway. But, as it turned out, the wicket had sufficient grass on it to put any technically-sound batsman to test and Sri Lanka's opening bowlers - Lakmal and Mathews - repeatedly hit the good and short of length area and extracted lateral movement easily. 

From the beginning, it didn’t make any sense to play two spinners in the match and India could easily have handed a debut cap to Punjab pacer Siddarth Kaul, leaving one of the spinners on the bench. Even without taking the benefit of hindsight, it would have been good if India could play Ajinkya Rahane in the place of Shreyas Iyer to bat at No.3 or the opening position – Rohit could have dropped a place in that case. With the all important South Africa series approaching, an underfire Rahane could have fancied his chances of scoring some runs and India could also test Kaul’s ability as well. Again, as it has always been, South Africa will never provide any conducive conditions for spinners and playing three proper pacers and one all-rounder in the form of Hardik Pandya would have done the trick for the hosts.

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