For India, home work turns messy affair

Riding high after blanking Australia away, India’s wheels came off against plucky Sri Lankans.

By: Reuters | Pune | Updated: February 10, 2016 1:34 am
Ind vs SL, India vs Sri Lanka, india cricket, india cricket match, india cricket score, ind vs sl t20, india vs sri lanka t20, cricket india, sri lanka, ms dhoni, dhoni, cricket score, cricket news, cricket Suresh Raina tried to arrest the early rot, but couldn’t quite keep out this one from medium pacer Dasun Shanuka. (Source: PTI)

It was only last August that Kasun Rajitha was busy trying to organize a few selfies for himself with as many of the Indian Test team members as possible at the Premadasa Stadium. The tall fast bowler from Matara had after all never rubbed shoulders with an international team before. And some of the Indians he was shyly posing next to were those he had dismissed earlier in the day as part of a five-wicket haul that rocked the visitors in their only warm-up game prior to the three-match series.

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Rajitha had previously only taken more than two wickets in an innings on one occasion. At the Maharashtra Cricket Association (MCA) Stadium, with the lights shining bright, it was Rajitha who was hamming the camera, punching the air and contorting his face violently to display his delight in demolishing the much-vaunted Indian top-order. And he did it in style as Sri Lanka beat India by five wickets in the first of three T20s.

PHOTOS: India fall apart

At least in the early going, the man responsible for holding the mirror up to the hosts was 22-year-old Rajitha. The likes of Dushmantha Chameera and Dasun Shanaka then did their bit too.

Rohit Sharma was the first to go—just like he had been in Colombo eight months ago—playing a shot that didn’t look like getting him out. But the ball moved just a tad off the pitch, and didn’t quite find the exact middle of his bat, ensuring that his genteel push towards the straight field resulted in a diving catch at mid-off by Chameera. Ajinkya Rahane followed four balls later, closing the face of his bat a second quicker than he should have, and being caught by another diving Sri Lankan, this time at short-cover.

Shikhar Dhawan you always expect to struggle in such conditions, and he did just that. He kept slashing at deliveries that pitched and moved away from him, got hit on the pads as he clumsily tried to tuck them away, and then lost his wicket to a wild heave towards the Pune night sky that instead carried to third-man off the outside edge of his bat.

Middle order in trouble

It is then that Yuvraj and Raina were united at the crease. Only a week ago, the two left-handers had proved how lethal they still are when it comes to finishing off these limited-over matches. But here was a case of them braving the storm and then taking their team to as safe a destination as possible. But Raina resembled someone trying his best to cross a busy freeway as he tried his best to counter Rajitha and Chameera, who were bowling at rapid pace and were also hitting the lengths from where the ball was moving around. He escaped getting caught twice, once dropped at third-man and then at deep mid-wicket. The first was a similar shot to what Dhawan would attempt in vain later, and the second a heave to the leg-side. He did hit a few boundaries but then was late on a medium-paced delivery from Shanaka that pitched on middle and knocked his leg-stump down.

Yuvraj on the other hand started his innings with a mighty six off Sachitra Senanayake, but never looked at ease against the seamers. He was struck painfully behind his ear by a Chameera bouncer, before pre-empting an encore and falling to a meek pull shot off a delivery that didn’t pitch too short.

It might not have been the manner in which India would have hoped for their middle-order to be exposed. But it at least meant that Suresh Raina and Yuvraj Singh finally had a sumptuous opportunity to show how they cope with a situation where they are patching up rather than garnishing a T20 innings. It proved India cannot depend on Yuvraj and Raina—both falling to innocuous shots at the end of awkward stints at the crease—to dig them out of a hole if the top-order doesn’t quite fire the way it has been, especially when the pitch is green and the ball is snaking around. If anything, they are yet to prove that they can stitch things up even on flatter wickets.

Dhoni then countered a bouncer as if he was shocked by it. He shouldn’t have been surprised by it, considering that he had seen many deliveries zoom past the heads of the ones before him. But he was. It was that kind of a day.

And it took R Ashwin and Ashish Nehra to take India past the three-figure mark. The last part of India’s innings and the start of Sri Lanka’s kind of belonged to Nehra. He hung around for 19 deliveries, turning back the clock to display his unique style of defending deliveries, to help Ashwin make 30. He then struck twice with the new-ball to give India a semblance of hope but 102 was always going to be a score that Sri Lanka only needed a partnership or two to get through. Skipper Dinesh Chandimal anchored the chase well enough to ensure that.

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  1. T
    TIHAEwale
    Feb 10, 2016 at 5:04 am
    Suresh Raina was never a test player so nothing surprising . Yuvraj and Dhoni are past their expiry date
    Reply
    1. D
      Dharam
      Feb 9, 2016 at 9:19 pm
      Over confidence. Ashwin is the top scorer. Time to ask all IPL teams whether they have invested wisely on these billionaries? Yuvraj, Raina, Dhoni, Rehance and bunch of other whangers will be total failures for sure
      Reply
      1. R
        Raghu Panjala
        Feb 10, 2016 at 8:00 am
        Good to see that ,finally we fans are calling for Dhoni's blood. Sad that there isnt such discussion against him, either in Media, analysts of tv channels,BCCI, reporters and common men. How can anyone pardon Dhoni playing such poor ,reckless shots when the need of hour was defense and singles,twos? Was Ganguly pardoned during his tenure? VVS,Dravid,Sehwag were humbel enuough to resign in such lack of form era. When will Dhoni realise, it has become unbearable for fans to watch him,play a minnow when he was supposed to guide youngsters.Shaem on him.
        Reply
        1. R
          rajesh indian
          Feb 10, 2016 at 4:25 am
          The young Lankan pacers again exposed the glaring weaknesses of our much vaunted batting stars on a green top offering pace movement and bounce. The lack of technique made our batsmen go for wild shots which led to their downfall.Raina already a proven bunny against pace has been joined by Yuvraj too who looked out of sorts and was out immedioately after being hit on the helmet by a snorter which shook him up.Manish pandey should be included in the team. Dhawan and Sharma were out too poor shots , India should thank Ashwin for helping them cross 100 which seemed a distant posibilityat one time.The fielding was substandard too.Idoubt this team can win the World T 20 .
          Reply
          1. P
            Pee Vee
            Feb 10, 2016 at 9:11 am
            Sri Lanka's performance off late has been dismal to put it politely and India has excelled in T20 format. They lost just one match yesterday and there are people baying for their blood. How can a team be described as the best and then the worst in a matter of one week.
            Reply
            1. S
              Sunil Nair
              Feb 10, 2016 at 5:38 am
              Proud of you Lankan boys. Eventhough some of your senior players were rested you gave your best and thrashed the no 1 team of T20 formatdia is missing Kohli and Manish Pandey.Dhoni better give captaincy to Kohli.Bring Manish Pandey in place of Shikhar Dhawan. Keep it up Lankan Lions.Thrash India 3-0 Show the Indian selectors what young blood can do.
              Reply
              1. T
                Tanmoy Kar
                Feb 10, 2016 at 2:19 am
                Indian team should have taken a leaf out of their young guns, in U19 World Cup semi-final yesterday against Sri Lanka after initial hick-ups they managed to score 267 and beat Sri Lanka by 97 runs in a gry pitch. Some of our Superstar Oldies like Yuvraj and Dhoni have to be removed for better results.
                Reply
                1. G
                  Guest
                  Feb 10, 2016 at 7:45 am
                  Cricketers are now aping the politicians: they never leave the role unless surgically removed! Dhoni when will you retire please??
                  Reply
                  1. V
                    VIVEK
                    Feb 10, 2016 at 3:50 am
                    Just wait for the WC, dear.
                    Reply
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