India has tough questions to answer after shock defeat

“Sometimes teams are going to come up and do that against you, and you literally can't do anything in the game,” Kohli felt of Sri Lanka's batting.

“We are not invincible,” Virat Kohli noted after his side went down to Sri Lanka on Thursday.   -  AFP


It is not often that India makes 300 and loses. Between October 2012 and July 2015—when the previous ODI rules were in force – India scored 300 in a match 16 times. It finished on the losing side on only two of those occasions. Indeed in all of its one-day history, India has made 300 and lost only 19 times.

Five of those defeats have come in the last 18 months—three in Australia, in that ridiculously high-scoring bilateral series; one in Kolkata against England this January; and one at the Oval on Thursday.


The last one was the biggest shock of them all. Sri Lanka came into the game with a woeful recent record, and fresh off a thrashing at the hands of South Africa. One player was lost to suspension, another to a freak injury on the eve of the game, and the captain couldn't bowl. Few would have expected Sri Lanka to chase down 321; that it got there in some comfort at the end says a lot about the dangers of reading too much into form. “We are not invincible,” Virat Kohli noted later.

Nobody is.

India's bowling was not terrible. It was simply anodyne; the batsmen were never bothered, never shackled. Only Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Jasprit Bumrah proved difficult to attack; the rest were harmless. “In a 50-over game, you will get small battles, which you need to win. We couldn’t win them, bowling-wise,” Rohit Sharma said later. “We should have taken more wickets in the middle phase and applies brakes on them. We couldn’t.”

Of India's bowlers, only Bhuvneshwar managed a wicket; the other two dismissals were run-outs. This was a bowling attack hailed – not only by Kohli but also Sarfaraz Ahmed and Angelo Mathews – as one of the best in the tournament. This was a side that shot out Pakistan for 164.

It is easy in hindsight to find fault with India's selection but there's no denying that the bowling felt lightweight. Only it wasn't tested at Edgbaston. India lacked incision in the middle overs, a wicket-taking threat that Hardik Pandya – still raw – and Ravindra Jadeja, for whom the ball did not turn, could not provide. Jadeja's display can be dismissed as a one-off for he has the weight of 153 ODI wickets, at an economy rate of 4.9, behind him. Pandya, on the other hand, causes concern because his body of work is limited, a player with only 24 first-class victims.

There's no guarantee that R. Ashwin, who struggled on the flat pitches in Australia last year, would have flourished, and besides Kohli has to keep the team's balance in mind. But the bowling group needs bolstering ahead of Sunday's virtual knock-out contest against South Africa. Mohammed Shami, a proven wicket-taker, also waits in the wings.

Rohit pointed out that too much was made of India's supposed flaws and not enough of Sri Lanka's strengths. “We tried everything we could to take wickets but they were quite disciplined,” he said. “We have to give credit to Sri Lanka as well. Sometimes we try and think too much as to what happened in the losing side. They batted well, created partnerships and winning partnerships at that.” He has a point; Danushka Gunatilaka, Kusal Mendis, Kusal Perera, and Asela Gunaratne were bold and unafraid to play their shots, without taking silly risks (till the first two were run out). In comparison, India's openers were staid; but if that approach has fetched results all along, it cannot suddenly be a failing.

“Sometimes teams are going to come up and do that against you, and you literally can't do anything in the game,” Kohli felt of Sri Lanka's batting. “You try to find ways to get people out, but it doesn't happen. If you have a couple of guys (bowlers) with off days in between, you can't go in with eight bowling options.”

Kohli tried seven—including himself—on Thursday. It was not enough.

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