India vs Sri Lanka: Patience, consistency – need of the hour for visitors

There was a huge element of surprise as India slumped to a heavy 33-point defeat on the Castrol Index at the hands of Sri Lanka in the second ODI at Hambantota. Yes, the same team which never looked as if it was playing its first one-dayer in four months had outclassed the hosts by 7 points on the Castrol Index earlier in the first ODI. There was a huge contrast in the two performances.

A splendid batting performance in the first match saw the visitors post a mammoth total of 314. Virender Sehwag and Virat Kohli, with a Batting Momentum of 133 and 142 respectively, set the stage for the humongous total. The bowlers complemented the batsmen well and paved the way for a comfortable victory.

Just when it looked like the Indian team was on track for a tough season ahead, it faltered in the second ODI. The same batting line-up which looked ever so ominous flopped in the next match and the visitors were bundled out for just 138, their fourth lowest total in the last five years. This was a huge antithesis as the same team which possessed a staggering Batting Momentum of 454 in the first game, ended up with 150 in the second. That is a huge drop for a team which has had three 300-plus scores in their last six encounters against the Lankans this year. It wasn't an exceptional performance from the Lankan bowlers but it was the lack of patience and application from the Indian batsmen that cost them the match. Even their bowling and fielding seemed lacklustre in the second match.

The batsmen did not depart to stupendous deliveries but it was the loose shots that brought about their downfall. Kohli chased a wide delivery and was caught behind. Rohit Sharma and Suresh Raina played poor shots and dragged the ball onto the stumps. MS Dhoni played a rash stroke under delicate circumstances and was caught behind. This shows the inconsistency that the entire batting order possessed. Thisara Perera, currently the top Castrol Index player with 57 points, and Angelo Mathews have been in terrific bowling form of late and the Indian batsmen made sure that they only boosted the duo's confidence by gifting away their wickets to their dicey medium-pacers. As emphasized by skipper Dhoni after the second match that application in the middle overs is important, youngsters like Kohli, Sharma and Raina need to be patient and play intelligent cricket. They need to take a leaf out of Gautam Gambhir's book who almost singlehandedly brought some respectability to the score with a stoic 96-ball 65. He applied himself superbly to the crease and was the last man out after having opened the innings and this achieved him the best Batting Momentum of 70 for India. This speaks volumes about his temperament and maturity. With three more ODIs to go, youngsters like Ajinkya Rahane or Manoj Tiwary, who have been waiting in the wings for a long time, need to be injected into the side in place of Rohit Sharma.

India’s bowling department needs a lot of improvement. They did well to defend 314 in the first match but looked completely dormant in the second. Their main concern is the inconsistency of the pace bowlers. Irfan Pathan achieved a highest Bowling Efficiency of 161 in the first ODI with a brilliant spell of swing bowling (2/37 from 10 overs) in the Quick Start as well as Extreme Performance Overs. But he followed it up with a dismal performance which saw his Bowling Efficiency drop to 33, a desolate performance when the team needed him the most. Zaheer Khan too looked enervated and had a mediocre Bowling Efficiency (74, 35) in the two matches. The two pacers were terribly wayward. In fact, the second match saw them concede 14 wides between them alone in a total of 24 extras overall. That added to their dipping Bowling Efficiency which dropped to 40 from 212 in the first game. Poor fielding coupled with dropped catches just added insult to injury. The only bowler who has looked threatening and consistent isRavichandran Ashwin with an excellent Bowling Efficiency of 153 and 129 in the two games.

India's strength is its batting. They have a good blend of experience and youth in the side and the youngsters need to learn to be patient and not get carried away. The bowlers, especially the pacemen, need to control the swing and reap the benefits of swinging conditions. The series is now level at 1-1 with Sri Lanka just ahead by 2 points on the Castrol Index. India have exceptional talents in their ranks and if they seek a patient, disciplined and determined approach, Castrol Index tips them to come up with some ripping performances and clinch the five-match ODI series in a comprehensive manner.

Insights provided by Castrol Index