After the embarrassing stutter in Dharamsala, India stepped up to brush Sri Lanka aside in the next two games and extend their winning streak in bilateral ODI series to an impressive eight. It was imperative for the senior batsmen in the side to lead the way after the abject capitulation in the first match, and Rohit Sharma and Shikhar Dhawan did so in successive games with telling results.
Thisara Perera’s luck with the coin exposed the openers to a tricky phase in Mohali, the 11.30am start making their task even more difficult. To their credit, they put their heads down and negotiated the first 10 overs with great care. Only 33 came in that period, but crucially, no wickets had been lost.
Shikhar then took charge but threw it away with a hundred beckoning. Rohit did not. The longer he stayed in the middle, the more he grew in confidence. He is the kind of batsman, who can effortlessly switch gears and send even good deliveries out of the park. He went from 100 to a magnificent third double hundred in just 36 deliveries, effectively killing the contest by the interval.
Sri Lanka showed little intent when they came out to bat, sticking to the same conservative batting order. However, they still managed to get to 250 on the back of a century from Angelo Mathews, showing up the Indian bowling a little. India had just five bowlers of whom two were all-rounders — Hardik Pandya and Washington Sundar. Going forward, they must identify a sixth and seventh option within the playing XI when they run into more challenging opposition.
The decider in Visakhapatnam was also a one-way traffic once Upul Tharanga was dismissed for a fluent 95 in the 28th over. Kuldeep Yadav and Yuzvendra Chahal, the two young wrist spinners, reiterated their continued growth as a potent force, and Shikhar made up for the Mohali profligacy by cruising to a deserved hundred.
I was most impressed with Shreyas Iyer in both the second and third matches. He could have been bogged down by the fact that he was coming in for Virat Kohli and that he had a poor debut in Dharamsala but without being reckless, he batted with natural freedom and brought a touch of class with his strokeplay. As much as his touch, it was his mindset that caught my eye. I foresee big things for him going forward.
As for Sri Lanka, they need strong leadership now more than ever. They have been in transition for far too long, and would do well to see how India handled their recent transitional periods. India had powerful personalities in charge — Sourav Ganguly (2000-01), Mahendra Singh Dhoni (2013-14) and then Virat — as the team moved from one era to another.
Unless Sri Lanka follow suit quickly, the road to redemption will be long and arduous.