New Delhi, June 9: Defending champions India suffered a shock defeat at the hands of an underdog Sri Lankan side in their second match of ICC Champions Trophy on Thursday (June 8).
Having set a target of 322 for Sri Lanka to chase, Indian bowlers leaked runs and eventually lost the game by 7 wickets which has now made their next encounter with South Africa a virtual quarter-final.
No Indian bowler managed to trouble a spirited young Sri Lankan batting line-up for the latter never faltered in the run chase, their joint-highest win while chasing.
No one could have ever imagined that underdogs Sri Lanka, who were defeated by South Africa quite comprehensively in their previous game, would shock a dominant Indian side in the tournament.
Sri Lankan top-order comprising Danushka Gunathilaka and Kusal Mendis laid the foundation for an easy run-chase for the 'Lankan Lions' after opener Nirosham Dickwella was dismissed cheaply by Bhuvneshwar Kumar.
Dickwella's departure at his individual score of 7, was the only moment of joy for the Indians bowlers when they came out to defend their total. None of the Indian bowlers, who were considered team's biggest strength in the tournament, could pose any threat to the Lankan batters.
This loss against Sri Lanka might just turn out to be fatal one for Kohli and company as their next game against South Africa will be a virtual quarter-final.
When one ponders over what could be the possible reason for India's such a shameful defeat, several things cross one's mind.
Here are the reasons for India's humiliating defeat:
Slow batting in the middle overs:
Shikhar Dhawan slammed a magnificent 125 off 128, Rohit Sharma made 79-ball 78 and MS Dhoni scored 63 off 52 to propel India to 321 for six in the set 50 overs. But, by observing India's batting in the middle overs one can easily figure out that Kohli and his boys fell 25-30 runs short. Indian batsmen looked headed towards a total past 350 but looked slow pace in between 25th and 40th over.
India were 139/2 when Virat Kohli was dismissed for duck in 25.5 overs but reached the 200-run mark in 37th over. It was this phase of 10 overs which, perhaps, made the difference and India failed to reach the score of 350-plus despite having wickets in hand.
Dhoni, who batted at a strike rate of 121, was dismissed in the final over while trying to end the Indian innings on a high. Had he faced few more balls, the finisher could have scored much more. Knowing, Dhoni and other batsmen could explode in the final overs, Shikhar Dhawan should have played aggressively.
Thus, Indian batsmen will have to certainly change their strategy as far as batting in the middle overs is concerned.
Excessive reliance over Hardik Pandya:
India skipper Virat Kohli termed young Hardik Pandya as an asset to the Indian cricket on the eve of the match against Sri Lanka. The skipper had given enough indications that the fast-bowling all-rounder is going to get preference over spinner R Ashwin.
However, Pandya failed to live up to the team's expectations in the match against Sri Lanka. Having come to bat in the 45th over, Pandya could only score 9 runs off seven deliveries he faced and leaked 51-runs from 7 overs he bowled.
Thus, team's excessive reliance over Pandya, who is yet to prove his credentials as a full-fledged medium pacer, proved costly for Team India. Pandya might have batted well against Pakistan but the medium pacer wasn't as effective as bowler in that game as well and we cannot blame him for that as he's just played 9 ODIs so far.
Team will have to understand that Pandya expecting tad too much from the youngster would hamper his performance as well.
Poor fielding cost India:
Skipper Kohli rated Team India's fielding against Pakistan 6 out of 10 and their performance against Sri Lanka was only marginally better. Team India dropped several catches, missed run outs on several occasions which helped Lankan batsmen bat freely and take the game away from India's grasp.
Hardik Pandya and Rohit Sharma too dropped a catch each, however they were tough chances but a better fielding side converts those half chances into wickets to win tight games. India weren't as sharp with their throw from the deep as well.
Kedar Jadhav didn't have a good outing in the field once again as his performance was below par. He was sloppy in the deep as well as in the 30-yard circle.
Barring run outs effected by Dhoni and Bhuvneshwar Kumar, India's fielding wasn't upto the mark.
India failed to read the pitch well:
India, somewhere, also failed in reading the pitch at The Oval too while their Sri Lankan counterparts read the conditions better than them and elected to chase after winning the toss.
India should have gone with an extra pacer if the pitch wasn't conducive for spinners. Kohli and company somewhere failed to judge Sri Lanka's young batting side. Playing an extra seamer could have been a better option for them.
There was hardly any Plan B for India when their regular bowlers were being punished. Kohl's desperation became evident when he himself started bowling.