Phew, after Shikhar Dhawan’s first win at the toss, many expected the Indian team to whitewash the Sri Lankan side, away from home. But as it turned out, Sri Lanka wrapped India up for 225 before the partnership between Avishka Fernando and Bhanuka Rajapaksa helped the hosts to a 'famous' win.
Sanju Samson might well have a shot at an ODI spot
For the longest time, Sanju Samson’s goods and the market has risen through the roof because of his consistent (flashy) displays for Rajasthan Royals in the IPL. However, whenever he has played for India, he has averaged 11.85 while striking at 118.57, 12 below what he strikes in T20 leagues. Now that’s where the public perception around him has come from, that he is just a slogger. But in the 2021 edition of the IPL, it became clear that Samson wasn’t a one-trick pony. Hell, he wasn’t a slogger, especially with the way he handled the pressure with the franchise.
Since 2013, which is his debut in the IPL, Samson hasn’t averaged better than he did in the 2021 season, where he was at his consistent best across the board, for both Rajasthan and Kerala. Combined, the right-hander scored 398 runs off 269 deliveries, averaging 39.8 and scoring at a strike rate of 148. In the List A format, Samson only averages 30.56 but the fact that he has become more and more consistent in the last few seasons make him a perfect choice in the 50-over format.
Now, talking about India, even without Samson, the Men in Blue have found their ideal lineup in the shortest format, with Suryakumar Yadav walking into the setup. But in the 50-over format, with the 2023 World Cup in India, they would need Samson in the setup, who can not only play the spinners well but could also double up as a wicketkeeper. While it might be too premature to call it, there is a strong case for Samson nailing that ODI spot over chasing the slipped away T20I one.
India’s chaotic approach towards spin
“This whole little life you've made, this is Chaos Magic, Wanda,” best describes India’s approach against spin - first they made a whole little life in the game by taking the attack and then the chaos magic just slotted in. Akila Dananjaya’s first over was definitely chaotic, with three consecutive boundaries. However, in his second over, he was far more in control, with his leg-spinners and the darters which held the duo of Sanju Samson and Prithvi Shaw back at their crease.
Praveen Jayawickrama, who had only played one ODI before, was taken to the cleaners in his first two overs but post that, varied his pace very well. Especially in the 19th over of the innings, after drifting his first delivery, the left-arm spinner tossed the ball slowly into the middle-stump, which beat Samson’s booming drive and dismissed him. While the DRS from thereon didn’t go his way, after the rain break, the left-arm spinner came to life.
Against Manish Pandey, the greenhorn beat the right-hander in the air, resulting in the sharpest of takes for Bhanuka, bowling at just 76kmph after he hurled the earlier delivery at 87 kmph. He didn’t stop it there, the left-arm spinner was so crafty, spinning the ball from outside leg-stump to middle and off stump, which beat Hardik Pandya. For Dhananjaya, three of his dismissals thereafter was a clear sign of India’s chaotic approach; they aimed to attack the spinners but without any plans, with the visitors going from 179/4 to 195/8.
Hardik Pandya, the all-rounder gone missing
When talks of Hardik Pandya resuming his bowling hit Twitter, it surely made the social media platform go wild and go glory over the days when he was an instrumental part of the Indian setup. While it is true that there is no other cricketer in the country can come close to him in terms of the package - an all-rounder, a power-hitter and a brilliant fielder - his performance in the Sri Lanka series were always going to determine how India’s plans would be for the World T20, in October.
Slowly yet steadily, the all-rounder has eased himself across the board with the ball but his batting, something that has been on a dip since the start of the year, emerged yet again. Across the three ODIs, with the bat, the all-rounder scored 19 runs, with all of his runs coming in just the one inning, the third ODI. In the third ODI, he walked out at 157/4, with a real opportunity to showcase his Australia form, with the bat.
However, after getting to 19, the all-rounder was undone by a brilliant delivery from the left-arm spinner Jayawickrama, catching him by surprise. Even if you take away the batting, his bowling performance certainly has certainly downgraded, with just two wickets across 14 overs of bowling, conceding 97 runs, averaging 48.50 while conceding at almost 7 RPO. In a series where India hoped that they could get the all-rounder back in a good shape after the slow IPL, the younger Pandya has certainly put himself in a big pool of trouble.