SL vs IND - Three Takeaways for the Indian Team
Despite the bizarre conditions under which this series was played and the make-shift teams that played it, the recently concluded bilateral series between India and Sri Lanka was an international series that brought enjoyable cricket to our screens and had certain consequences in the international cricket world.
Sri Lanka played some gritty cricket and (finally) won their first T20I series against India. It was their eighth attempt. Also, on this tour, the new-look Indian team followed in the footsteps of their star-studded predecessor teams by defeating The Lions for the ninth consecutive time in an ODI series.
We got to witness the Men-in-Blue in an entirely different light. Maybe we were even lucky enough to be at the dawn of a new era of international cricket where, given the amount of cricket that is being played now eventually dual, highly-rotated teams become a necessity.
Looking from an Indian cricket perspective, there were many ambiguities and questions before the series started, and after its culmination, there were a few answers and learning for us to take away. Let’s take a look:
1. The consolidation of Surya Kumar Yadav
He was the knight in shining armor for the Indian team in this series. Unfortunately, he missed the final two games because he had to isolate himself, and how dearly was he missed! Player of the Series in the ODIs, Suryakumar Yadav smashed 124 runs at a solid average of 62. In the sole T20I that he played and India won on the tour, he was the highest run-getter with a knock of 50.
It took floods of domestic and IPL runs; a lengthy battle with his patience; and a journey filled with heartbreaks for the-30-year-old to get his debut cap, but, after achieving this feat, he hasn’t looked back. Whenever he has come to bat for the national side, he has looked ready, charged, hungry, busy, and yet, at the same time, relaxed, chewing his gum all the while. Even if they might have been there, he has never let his nerves overwhelm him, and the danger of getting overwhelmed for a player like him – a player who has been constantly and heavily hyped up before making his debut – can be more.
Yadav’s emergence has blessed Indian cricket because not having match-winners in the middle order proved to be India’s kryptonite in the 2019 men’s world cup, and now, right before the WT20, he seemed to have filled that void.
2. Chahal back in form & Chahar giving a glimpse of his magic
Leg-spinners, right now, are the songbirds of a bowling unit in cricket, especially T20 cricket. Successful teams have sublime leggies, and if they don’t have one, they are in a constant search for one. India’s prime leg-spinner, Yuzvendra Chahal, had been off his radar for quite some time. Honestly put, he was battered in the away ODI and T20I series against Australia; was dropped for the final game. Then, again in the home T20I series against England, the-31-year-old was smashed around the park. On top of that, he had an abysmal IPL season.
This series has demonstrated how having international experience cannot be quantified but is of immense significance. With the T20 world cup coming ahead, not having a player with his experience and caliber in top form can prove detrimental. However, his performances in this series were heartening. Leading wicket-taker in the ODIs with 5 despite missing one game, and economical and influential in the sole ODI that he played, his run-in in Sri Lanka can give him much-needed confidence before the start of the second leg of the IPL.
On the other side of the extreme is the emerging leg-spinning star from Bharatpur, Rajasthan, Rahul Chahar. Having established himself in the Mumbai Indians’ starting XI, this 21-year-old has already accumulated 41 IPL wickets at a rate of 24.41 and an economy of under 7.5. For MI, he is one of the first names on the team sheet, such is his merit.
In this series, he featured only in the three games, all of which India lost – one ODI, two T20Is – and in those heavy losses, he emerged as the saving grace. Over the course of the tour, he bagged seven wickets – three in the sole one-day that he played and four in the two T20Is, but, perhaps more than that, it was his skill and the level of control he displayed over his art that majorly mesmerized us.
There are certain things in sport that have a feel of inevitability to it, and the prospect of a much-increased role and impact of Chahar in Indian cricket and that too sooner rather than later seems like one of those inevitable things.
3. Samson’s disappointing run
One of the most gracious batters in the country, a bulwark in the IPL and domestic cricket, Sanju Samson’s ODI debut was much anticipated. Unfortunately, he injured himself before the first ODI, but he finally got his chance in the last game of the one-day series. Things began well, and then came the rain, which with no fault of its own, proved to be treacherous for Keralite because his campaign only went downhill from there. Batting well on 46, he chipped one inside-out to the fielder at covers – failing to convert his start to a big score. The Indian team also never really stabled itself after his dismissal, getting all out for a mere 225, and eventually losing the game.
Samson’s short international T20 career has been quite the opposite of dazzling. Before the Sri Lanka series, the-26-year-old had merely collected 83 runs in 7 outings. His output in this series was also similar to his previous performances, scoring just 34 runs in three games at a lowly average of 11.33.
In a side affected by covid complications and playing with only five established batters, the wicketkeeper-batsman had a golden opportunity to assume the role of a leader. But some good bowling on difficult battings tracks and some missed chances prevented him from doing so.
The chances one gets in international cricket are less but age is on his side and there’s another IPL coming to state his case.