India vs Sri Lanka, Asia Cup 2014: Match analysis

Indian-captain-Virat-Kohli-(R)-is-bowled-by-Sri-Lankan-bowler-Ajantha-Mendis-as-wicketkeeper-Kumar-Sangakkara

India lost a close encounter against Sri Lanka in the Asia Cup match at Fatullah. Abhishek Mukherjee provides his opinions on the match.

Why did Angelo Matthews opt to bowl?

It has a lot to do with the pattern of ODIs in the subcontinent. Even 15 years earlier the general outlook was to set a target as big as possible, bat the opposition out of the match, get them to lose wickets early, and succumb to the pressure. That changed with time as more and more chases in excess of 300 started happening; then came Twenty20, and the entire mindset changed. The teams do not rule out any target these days, even if it is in excess of 400.

For India the conditions apply even more: the current Indian side has a line-up of bludgeoners and a relatively weak pack of bowlers who have not been as effective as some of the other attacks across the world, especially in the death overs. We have seen India chase down targets with ridiculous ease over the past two or three years; defending targets, on the other hand, has not been their cup of tea.

Are you happy with the omission of Cheteshwar Pujara on a consistent basis?

Of course not: as I have said before, Pujara’s numbers and form are simply too good to keep him out. Ambati Rayudu has not done anything wrong, but he has not really taken the world by storm either. Neither Rayudu nor Rohit Sharma has done enough to put Pujara out of contention.

Virat Kohli failed today…

Yes, for a change: he had been scoring hundreds almost as frequently as India has been playing Sri Lanka over the past few years. Mind you, he still scored 48 in 51 balls, and was undone by a peach from Ajantha Mendis. However, Shikhar Dhawan played his part before getting out to Mendis. He deserved a hundred for the effort.

Taking of Mendis, do you think it was he who turned things around for the Lankans?

It was not only Mendis: Sachithra Senanayake and Chaturanga de Silva played their part as well. Dhawan and Ajinkya Rahane were batting beautifully, and at 175 for two India had the perfect launching pad for the 330-run mark. But then Rahane gave the charge to Senanayake and fell tamely, which triggered the collapse.

That phase changed the game completely. Mendis bowled beautifully, and bowled Dhawan with a straight one, and Karthik seemed all at sea. Rayudu holed out against de Silva, and that was that. But generally Mendis bowled beautifully, with subtle variations, bringing back memories of 2008: it is a pity that Mohammad Shami ruined his figures towards the end.

Having said that, it was a bold move by the think-tank to go in with three spinners against India: it was a risk they took that came out very well.

Do you think India missed MS Dhoni’s experience in the final overs?

Definitely. There have been questions regarding his captaincy, but he remains the most dangerous batsman towards the end of innings: he would have been able to farm the strike, rely on singles, and then go for the kill. Without him the middle-order seemed clueless.

It is not only about Dhoni, either: with both Yuvraj Singh and Suresh Raina out of the squad, the team does not have the big-hitters to take the game away from the opposition in the last few overs. Ravindra Jadeja has come of age only recently with the bat and Ravichandran Ashwin has had that one good innings; and Karthik has seldom blasted an opposition away.

Stuart Binny could have been a viable option, but today’s duck certainly did not help his cause.

How do you think this can be solved?

A possible solution would be to drop Rayudu for Pujara, get Pujara to open the innings, and drop Rohit to somewhere around five. Rohit may be out of form, but we all know how fast he can change things around in the closing stages.

The Sri Lankans then got away to a good start…

It is getting a tad monotonous these days, isn’t it? Bhuvneshwar Kumar bowled a tidy line, but Shami was wayward, and both Kusal Janith Perera and Lahiru Thirimanne made merry. Catches went down, and Ashwin took some pounding as well.

We saw the old run-up back!

It had to happen. A change in run-up has seldom done bowlers a lot of good (it had ended Maninder Singh’s career, if you remember). Once back to his old action he picked up two wickets. Ashwin is an intelligent, thoughtful bowler, always keen on experiments, but at times he overdoes the experimentation. Patience has worked for spinners throughout the history of the sport. There is no reason that it would be any different from him.

Then the collapse began…

Yes. Mahela Jayawardene has been out of form and it was a nothing shot. The ball to get Dinesh Chandimal out was special: for some reason Jadeja’s bowling is still not being taken seriously. He got de Silva as well and finished with amazing figures, but he will still end up being ridiculed by the fans for some unfathomable reason.

There is also the case of Shami: he can be wayward at times and someone with high bat speed and high-eye coordination can destroy him on subcontinent tracks. But he does not lose heart, keeps on trying, and often provides those vital breakthroughs. He even got Kumar Sangakkara in the end.

But Sangakkara reigned supreme, as usual.

Yes, as usual. It is baffling how Sangakkara never gets credit for the quality of his batting and the dual role he is almost never considered as one of the all-time greats. If someone has a closer look at the numbers, however, they may be able to fathom his greatness.

Look at today’s innings: he saw wickets falling at the other end, but at no point did he let it seem that he was not in control. He was fortunate to get away with the missed stumping, but barring that he had been dangerous throughout, piercing the leg-side field with ease. It was a shame he threw it away in the end.

But India still could not get those two wickets.

They created chances, though: the one that took Mendis’ edge could well have been caught by Karthik on another day; and Dhawan’s drop of Thisara Perera could have resulted in a tie, but that did not happen.

How do you think India can turn things around for Sunday’s big match?

Pujara has to be there. The team needs someone to play a long innings; Kohli has been consistent, but he needs someone else at the other end to deliver. If you ask me, that should be at the top of the priority list. As for the fielding, bad days happen: Jadeja and Rahane have grassed chances, which, one feels, will not happen very frequently.

As for the bowling, it is still going nowhere, and worse — there is no hope either.

(Abhishek Mukherjee is the Deputy Editor and Cricket Historian at CricketCountry. He blogs at http://ovshake.blogspot.in and can be followed on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/ovshake42)