Colombo: The Indian team had survived a scare in the third ODI once again and it was opener Rohit Sharma, whose first century in Sri Lanka and former skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s gritty 67 that helped them clinch the series 3-0 with two games remaining. Clearly things haven’t gone in the way as the Sri Lankans would have wanted and the dominating performance by the Indians has added to that woe as now the Virat Kohli led team would have a whitewash on their minds when they take on Sri Lanka in the fourth ODI in Colombo on Thursday.
2017 has been a year that the Sri Lankans would want to forget. An early exit from the Champions Trophy, a shocking series defeat to Zimbabwe at home and now, on the verge of a second whitewash by the Indians (after their 3-0 drubbing in the Test series)- things couldn’t have gone more wrong for the hosts than it is now.
Adding to all this, the home fans haven’t taken a liking to this continued humiliation that the team has faced in the past few months. Unable to see their team lose yet another contest, they vented out their frustration by throwing bottles at the ground as a result of which play was halted momentarily and then ended with India winning the series 3-0.
To make matters worse, the Sanath Jayasuriya led selection panel has decided to step down and wouldn’t be seen guiding the team anymore after the one-off T20I match on September 6. Also, Chamara Kapugedara, who had been named as the stand-in skipper as Upul Tharanga’s replacement has suffered from a back injury and has been ruled out of the series. The experienced Lasith Malinga thus has been entrusted with the captaincy responsibilities as the Sri Lankans would hope to stop the Indian juggernaut in Colombo.
Unlike the Test series, there have been some bright spots for the Sri Lankans. Their top-order batsmen has looked in good touch as most of them got starts but failed to end up with a big score. Mystery spinner Akila Dananjaya, has been an absolute phenomenon as he almost single-handedly won Sri Lanka the second ODI before Dhoni and Bhuvneshwar Kumar bailed the Indians out of trouble, guiding them to a three-wicket win.
On the contrary, the Indians have had a good time in this series so far. It was the Shikhar Dhawan-Virat Kohli show in the first match as they man-handled the Sri Lankan bowlers to ensure a comfortable win. However, the second and third ODI’s have been testaments to the fact that India’s most successful captain MS Dhoni still has a lot of offer to the team. In both these games, the Indian top-order had failed but the swashbuckling right-hander took control and with stitched match-winning partnerships with Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Rohit Sharma at crucial junctures in the second and third ODI respectively to ensure that India’s winning run continue in the series.
The man, whose selection in the squad was under the scanner few weeks ago has silenced his critics once again and would look to continue doing the same when he plays his 300th ODI for India tomorrow.
With the series already won, Virat Kohli would like to experiment a bit with his team ahead of the fourth ODI. The middle-order batsmen comprising the likes of Kedar Jadhav and KL Rahul haven’t performed with the bat in the series so far and the management would want to give someone like a Manish Pandey, an opportunity to try and cement a slot in the line-up.
The bowling has been pretty decent with the Indians restricting the hosts to under 250 in all the three matches that have been played so far. Jasprit Bumrah has been consistent with his length and accuracy and had also got a fifer in the last game. Spinners Axar Patel and Yuzvendra Chahal too have come good and have taken wickets. However Jadhav, the man with the golden arm has once again done justice to his bowling skills as he has provided the team with breakthroughs and have dismissed important batsmen in the opposition team. Kohli might still give chinaman Kuldeep Yadav an opportunity after the youngster had a terrific outing against the West Indies a month ago.
Kohli, thus would be upbeat about his team’s chances of a another win in the fourth ODI while skipper Lasith Malinga would try to use his experience to help his team pull off a win against all odds in Colombo.