Even without some of their A-list bowlers, India possess enough talent in their squad to ace this tri-series T20I tournament. So, the loss last Tuesday against hosts Sri Lanka in the series opener had come as a surprise.
A few expensive deliveries, perhaps a result of inexperience, in the Powerplay cost the men in blue the first ODI. But the bowlers made amends against Bangladesh, restricting them to 139/8. They followed it up with another fine show on Monday that gave India a comfortable six-wicket win over the hosts.
After conceding 94 in the first 10 overs (Sri Lanka would have scored more if not for Washington Sundar’s three miserly Powerplay overs that yielded just 18 runs) the Indian bowlers, spearheaded by Shardul Thakur, constricted the hosts, giving them only 58 in the last nine overs of a rain-curtailed 19-overs-a-side game.
Washington’s steady rise
Washington Sundar’s a man with no fuss. He doesn’t turn the ball prodigiously off the pitch, mystery deliveries he doesn’t possess, even his celebrations after a wicket are muted most of the time. For a teenager, who’s just five matches old in international cricket, Washington seems hardly perturbed on the pitch. He never lets a batsman or the occasion or the pitch get to him. Even on his bad days, he doesn’t lose his morale. And, Washington Sundar, 18, has never had a bad day in international cricket. In four T20Is, Washington has never conceded over 28 runs and in his only ODI, picked up a wicket and yielded 65 runs in his 10 overs.
Part of Washington’s success, especially during the Powerplay, is due to the lack of doubts in his head. The teenager is clear about his strengths and weaknesses as well as of the batsman whom he’s bowling to.
In an interview to ESPNCricinfo last year, he said: “I am clear with what I should do. I am clear with what is my strength. I have a few plans for different batsmen for different situations. I am clear with what I should do. I am clear with what is my strength. I have a few plans for different batsmen for different situations.”
He might change the placement of his delivery after having been hit for a six, but he hardly lets it upset his bowling rhythm. On Monday, he started off with a flighted delivery that Gunathilka launched over his head for a six. In the next five balls of his first over, he gave away only three runs.
Rohit’s dismal T20I record in Sri Lanka continues
Rohit Sharma, coming into this tournament, was expected to make merry against the bowling attacks of Sri Lanka and Bangladesh. Two of his top-three scores in T20Is have come against these teams. And only before the South African tour, he feasted on the Sri Lankan bowling attack – scoring his third double hundred in ODIs and the joint-fastest hundred in T20Is. In South Africa, Rohit’s returns weren’t impressive – he made 170 runs in six ODIs and 32 runs in three T20Is. So, Rohit was supposed to be back among the runs once he landed in more batter-friendly conditions of Sri Lanka.
But the truth is, in T20Is, Rohit has thirsted for runs in Sri Lanka, especially against the hosts. In nine innings (including the one on Monday), he’s made 123 runs at 17.57. And, when playing against the hosts, in four innings, Rohit has made 24 runs at an average of six . The 11 runs he made on Monday is his highest against Sri Lanka in Sri Lanka.
But there’s no worrying pattern to Rohit’s dismissals. The first match he was dismissed for a four-ball duck by Dushmantha Chameera after his attempted hoist over mid-off was stunningly caught by Jeevan Mendis. In the chase of 140 against Bangladesh, Rohit looked good at the start – carving a boundary past the point and pulling one to wide long off – but he perished for 17, trying to cut one of the finest exponents of cutters, Mustafizur Rahman. On Tuesday, he fell to Dananjeya, looking to clear the in-field during the Powerplay and fetch some quick runs, but the bowler cramped him for room.
If he doesn’t err early, Rohit can break in his next innings against Bangladesh on Wednesday. But at present, it does look like a pretty big ‘if’.
Shardul Thakur makes amends for his 27-run over
Even after an early struggle with the bat in the first T20I, India held the upper hand against Sri Lanka till the third over of the second innings. Shikhar Dhawan had boosted India’s total to 174 – enough for the inexperienced-yet-talented Indian bowling line-up. And on a venue where the hosts had lost 12 of the 14 T20Is they played, the men in blue were the favourites to extend their seven-match winning streak against them.
Then, the third over of the second innings happened. 4,4,6,5nb,4,0. 27 runs. Shardul Thakur would rather be the character in horror movies that has to descend the stairs to a dark cellar than to relive that over. It’s perhaps the worst he’s ever bowled.
He made amends in the same match, giving away only 16 in the rest of his spell. Against Bangladesh, he gave away only 25 runs in four overs and picked up a wicket.
Thakur, on Monday, made the most of his four overs. In his first, he picked up an early wicket for his team. Then, he came in the 12th over to end Thisara Perera’s rampage with the knuckleball, a delivery he seems to have mastered. The inexperienced lower-order couldn’t handle him in the 17th and the 19th over.
Thakur got an opportunity against the same opposition at the same venue, where he bowled one of the worst overs he’ll ever bowl. And, he made it count: finishing with career-best T20I figures of 4/27.