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Tuesday, September 28, 2021

India vs Sri Lanka: Put on hot seat, India’s bench freezes

Over the back-to-back T20Is, Ruturaj Gaikwad, Devdutt Padikkal and Nitish Rana had a chance to show their skills on the international stage. Instead, they failed to deliver.

Written by Shamik Chakrabarty |
Updated: July 30, 2021 1:01:48 pm
India players celebrate the dismissal of Sri Lanka's Minod Bhanuka during the third T20I. (AP)

India’s young batsmen missed a big opportunity. Over the back-to-back T20Is, Ruturaj Gaikwad, Devdutt Padikkal and Nitish Rana had a chance to show their skills on the international stage. Instead, they failed to deliver.

Shikhar Dhawan was expected to lead the depleted side from the front. He got out to a golden duck in the third T20I after choosing to bat first on a fresh but dry Premadasa pitch. This series was said to be an audition for the left-hander, with an eye to the upcoming T20 World Cup. Dhawan is no longer an automatic pick in the shortest format and after 86 runs in the three T20Is at a strike-rate of touching 109, he now has his big tournament reputation to impress the selectors.

Sanju Samson yet again failed to bridge the gap between league/domestic cricket and international cricket. Kuldeep Yadav’s resolve and application helped India go past their lowest-ever T20I total, 74 versus Australia. But 81/8 in 20 overs attested batting implosion.

Rahul Chahar’s three wickets delayed the inevitable. But it was a tough ask for the bowlers. Bringing Kuldeep into the attack so late, after debutant Sandeep Warrier, didn’t help matters either. Sri Lanka won by seven wickets with 33 balls to spare to annex the three-match series – their first T20I series victory since 2019, when they had beaten Pakistan. Leg-spinner Wanindu Hasaranga celebrated his birthday with his career-best 4/9 from four overs. With due credit to the 24-year-old, the Indian batsmen played him with the uncertainty of facing Muttiah Muralitharan.

Covid-forced isolation of nine players had given the opportunity to Gaikwad and Co to prove their mettle at the international level. The second T20I on Wednesday was their bedding-in game. Also, the way the Indian innings panned out on a sluggish pitch yesterday, the likes of Padikkal and Rana didn’t have much scope to make their presence felt. The final T20I on Thursday gave them the opportunity to plan their innings. But they looked to be in a hurry to take the charter flight to Bangalore after the game.

READ | Difficult situation but we decided to stay on: Shikhar Dhawan

The mix-up between Padikkal and Gaikwad bordered on comical. The southpaw attempted a sweep, missed it and the ball rolled down to short fine leg. Padikkal ran without looking at his partner. Gaikwad, initially ball-watching, sent him back. The scoreboard recorded the dismissal as leg-before, but the running between the wickets was mind-boggling.

Samson’s dismissal was even more disappointing. Being the second-most senior player in a five-man batting line-up, his job was to take the Indian innings deep. Samson tried to play across the line to a Hasaranga flipper and was caught plumb in front. Two balls later, Gaikwad perished, as he failed to read a googly. “If you are picked to play for India, be it a 15-member squad or 20-member, you should be good enough to be in the XI,” coach Rahul Dravid had said yesterday. The youngsters didn’t live up to his expectations.

Rana was brilliantly caught and bowled by Dasun Shanaka and after 10 overs India were 39/5, their lowest-ever T20I score at that stage of the innings, a further downgrade from 42/6 against New Zealand in 2016.

Bhuvneshwar Kumar hung around for a while before being out to another fine catch from Shanaka. But Kuldeep’s 23 not out off 28 balls showed that batting wasn’t an impossible task. Kuldeep did the basics right, waiting for the ball and playing with the turn against the spinners. Fifty more runs to the total and the iffy Sri Lankan batting line-up might have come under pressure. Instead, India’s eight-series winning streak in T20Is ended with a whimper.

Brief scores: India 81/8 in 20 overs (K Yadav 23 not out; W Hasaranga 4/9) lost to Sri Lanka 82/3 in 14.3 overs (D de Silva 23 not out; R Chahar 3/15) by 7 wickets.

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