A dominant Indian show

16-08-2017
DH

The fact that it was India’s maiden 3-0 Test series whitewash away from home held a mirror to the quality of cricket they put on display against Sri Lanka.

Sri Lanka, of course, isn’t the side they used to be till about two-three years ago. Their batting is yet to find worthy replacements for the likes of Mahela Jayawardene, Kumar Sangakkara and Tillakaratne Dilshan. And barring the 39-year-old left-arm spinner Rangana Herath, their bowling is woefully inexperienced. The injuries to some of their key players during the series only compounded their problems against a team that has not lost a series in more than two years in these conditions.

While they still have to prove their mettle against South Africa, England and Australia on away tours over the next 18 months, the quality of the opposition shouldn’t take anything away from India’s show. They played like the No 1 team that they are at the moment. India ticked most of the boxes as they grew from strength to strength over the course of three Tests. Here is a look at how things fell in place for Virat Kohli and company.

Openers
The opening combination has been a bit of a revolving door for some time now. Injuries and lack of form have often forced India to play with no two fixed openers for any length of time but that hasn’t limited their choices. In the absence of the first-choice M Vijay and KL Rahul, Shikhar Dhawan and Abhinav Mukund did a wonderful job at the top of the order in the first Test at Galle. Returning to second and third Tests, Rahul struck two half-centuries to prove why he is India’s preferred opener. With Dhawan, who also emerged the highest run-getter of the series, picking up his second century of the series here, India had a multitude of options.

Dhawan: 358 runs at an average of 89.50 (100s: 2; HS: 190)

Rahul: 142 runs at an average of 71 (50s: 2; HS: 85)

Abhinav: 93 runs at an average of 46.50 (50s: 1; HS: 81)

Middle-order
Cheteshwar Pujara continued his dream run with two centuries in the first two Tests while Ajinkya Rahane proved equally impressive with a fluent hundred in the second Test at SSC. Kohli was good without being extraordinary as he aggregated 161 runs in four innings. Pujara’s solidity and Rahane’s enterprise have combined well in shaping the batting fortunes and with Kohli slowly but surely regaining his touch in the longer format after a wretched run against Australia, India’s middle-order is in the safe hands. 

Pujara: 309 runs at an average of 77.25 (100s: 2; HS: 153); Rahane: 229 runs at an average of 76.33 (100s: 1; 50s: 1; HS: 132); Kohli: 161 runs at an average of 53.66 (100s: 1; HS: 103 n.o.)

Lower-order
The lower-order contributions have been one of the stand-out features of this Indian team in the last couple of years. The likes of R Ashwin, Wriddhiman Saha, Ravindra Jadeja and now Hardik Pandya have bolstered the batting with regular contributions. As a result, it has allowed the team the luxury of playing with five bowlers more often than not. Against Sri Lanka, batsmen from No 8-11 amassed 368 runs from 12 innings at an average of 46 -- the fourth highest for any team in a Test series. Ashwin, who batted at No 6, had scores of 47, 54 and 31 while Saha totalled 99 runs including 67 at SSC.

Ashwin: 132 runs at an average of 44 (50s: 1; HS: 54); Saha: 99 runs at an average of 33 (50s: 1; HS: 67); Pandya: 178 runs at an average of 59.33 (100s: 1; 50s: 1; HS: 108)

Pacers
India probably never had two pacers, who had the ability to bowl in the upwards of 140 kmph, operate at the same time. Umesh Yadav and Mohammad Shami have struck a fine tandem in the recent past, adding an extra dimension to team composition. They both work up consistent high speeds, have the ability to swing the ball – conventional and reverse – and more often than not provide breakthroughs. So impressive were Umesh and Shami in the final Test here that it prompted Lanka skipper Dinesh Chandimal to say: “The first spell by Shami and Umesh was brilliant. At one point we thought as if we were playing in England. They bowled so well making most of the conditions.”

Shami: 10 wickets @ 17.70

Umesh: 6 wickets @ 35.83

Spinners
Just like an abundance of pacers, India are also spoilt for choice when it comes to spinners. While R Ashwin and Jadeja are their first picks, the likes of Kuldeep Yadav, Amit Mishra, Jayant Yadav, to name a few, can be as useful. Between Ashwin, Jadeja and Kuldeep, 35 wickets were claimed during this series, once again underlining their importance in these conditions. Ashwin, who played his 50th Test at Galle, was once again India’s trump card with 17 scalps at 25.88. Jadeja, who was suspended for the final Test, claimed 13 wickets at 28.76. Replacing Jadeja, Kuldeep proved equally effective with a four-wicket haul here in the first innings.

Ashwin: 17 wickets @ 25.88

Jadeja: 13 wickets @ 28.76

Kuldeep: 5 wickets @ 19.20

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