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5 Reasons why India lost: Dissection of India-Sri Lanka game

India did the mistake of leaving out their premier spinner of recent times Ravi Ashwin.

Virat Kohli of India
Virat Kohli of India. (Photo by Christopher Lee-IDI/IDI via Getty Images)

Not many gave Sri Lanka a chance to even put up a fight against India, especially after their defeat against South Africa. They defied the odds and emerged victorious at the Kennington Oval beating the star-studded India by 7 wickets. Angelo Mathews, who returned to Sri Lanka colours after spending 10 months out of the side due to an injury, will be a very proud man.

Winning is one thing and winning by such a margin is another. Chasing a mammoth 322, Sri Lanka lost just 3 wickets – two of them to run outs – before completing the chase in the 49th over. They played exceptionally well by adopting a pragmatic approach during the chase. Barring Dickwella, who was out for 7, every batter who got an opportunity in the game did a job for his country. By virtue of this win, things have spiced up in Group B. India and South Africa were popularly hailed to qualify ahead in this group but now, one of these big sides will have to go back home after their clash on Sunday.

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India did not bowl too badly but it looked like they were a bowler short on the day. Defending that many runs give a bowling side that much more cushion but it wasn’t enough for India. They will now have to face South Africa in a knockout game which will test their character.

Let’s look at the 5 reasons where India lost the game against the Islanders:

1. Benching Ashwin for the second straight game:

Kohli left out Ashwin again for this game saying that ‘the off-spinner understands the dynamics of the team’. Ashwin is a class bowler irrespective of the format and is absolutely indispensable for India. India have adopted a fail-safe strategy of playing 6 batsmen apart from Hardik Pandya and Ravindra Jadeja, who both are no mug with the bat. Jadeja is too good a batsman to be wasted at No. 8 in ODI cricket. They need to play brazenly and get Ashwin back in the side at the expense of one of the batsmen. When Gunathilaka and Kusal Perera were going great guns, both left-handers, Ashwin would have made an impact with his crafty bowling.

Pandya and Jadeja are utility players and you can’t expect them to give you 10 overs every game. Both collectively went for 103 runs in 13 overs without picking any wickets. These are alarming numbers and reflect that India were a bowler short. Jadhav and Kohli himself had to fill in with 6 overs which went for 35 runs. Ashwin should get back into the side for the South Africa game on Sunday.

2. Two wickets in two overs pegged their innings back:

At 139 for no loss in the 25th over, India looked good to amass a score in excess of 350. Both Rohit and Dhawan started from where they left at Edgbaston. This time Rohit played the aggressor and Dhawan bided time initially. When Rohit smacked Malinga for a six in the 25th over, he looked set to score a big hundred. He again, like in Birmingham, got out the next ball after hitting a six for a well made 78. Kohli came in at No. 3 but was soon removed by Pradeep six balls later to get Sri Lanka back in the contest. 2 quick wickets at that stage required India to rebuild the innings to an extent which wasted a few overs.

3. Sluggish knock by Yuvraj:

While two quick wickets required a bit of caution, Yuvraj took far too many balls to get himself in. As soon as Mathews saw two batsmen getting out, he brought in his less effective bowlers to get a few cheap overs in. Yuvraj had already decided to take his time, which he has been doing of late. The problem starts when after starting slowly, you get out in the middle of your struggles. Yuvraj’s 18-ball 7 sucked the momentum out of the chase. He wasn’t going anywhere with his innings and was one of the primary reasons why India could not get 340 on the board.

4. Being too cautious with the bat in the middle overs:

While it is totally understandable that the openers tend to take up a bit of time early on, the other batsmen must make sure that they are busy the moment they arrive at the crease. Yuvraj certainly didn’t do that. Dhawan, to an extent, took a little bit of extra time to get going in his innings. In today’s day and age, 350 is considered as a safe target. Getting to 321, that too courtesy Dhoni’s 63 and Kedar Jadhav’s 13-ball 25, doesn’t justify the batting talents India possess. Usually, if you apply the old rule of ODI cricket, teams look to double their score after 30 overs of the innings. India were 169 for 2 at the 30 over mark. With that score at that point, 338 was the bare minimum they should have got.

In the end, they managed to get 152 runs in the last 20 overs out of which, 103 were scored in the final 10. They could only manage to score 49 runs between over number 30 and 40, which is too low considering the fact that only 4 fielders are allowed outside the circle. India needs to rethink their strategy and make full use of the second powerplay which will keep them in good stead for the final assault after the completion of 40 overs.

5. Defensive approach while defending 321:

When both Gunathilaka and Mendis were going great guns, it was logical to get on the back foot as a fielding side. Kohli, following Dhoni’s advise, got Jadhav and himself on to bowl in quest of picking a wicket. In Kohli’s first over, Gunathilaka lost his wicket due to a runout but the captain kept himself and Jadhav on for four more overs. This gave Kusal Mendis an easy opportunity to ease into his innings. Mendis too resorted to singles in a time where India should have got Bhuvneshwar or Bumrah into the attack to pick another wicket.

Those 6 overs of Kohli and Jadhav might have resulted in just 35 runs but it allowed Sri Lanka to get closer to the target by playing risk-free cricket against some innocuous bowling. Two overs from a strike bowler there would have posted a challenge to the Sri Lankans. In hindsight, Kohli did not ring in the right changes during crunch moments.

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