At 29 for 7, India were in danger of plummeting to the all-time lowest ODI total. While they managed to avoid the ignominy thanks to MS Dhoni’s stubbornness down the order, a total of 112 proved woefully inadequate even in bowling-friendly conditions; Sri Lanka chased it down with 29.2 overs to spare. Rohit Sharma, in his first ODI as captain, admitted such matches were an “eye-opener” but refused to read much too much into it.
“Credit should go to the Sri Lankan bowlers, they made full use of the conditions but, as a team, as a batting unit, days like these will teach us a lot of things. We as a team want to thrive in such conditions and come out on top,” Rohit said at the end of the match. “Today was not the ideal day and hopefully boys can learn from it and next time we are put in this situation we know how to tackle that and come out of it.
A noticeable feature of India’s innings was the slow scoring rate right from the start. At the end of 10 overs, India were on 11 for 3 – the lowest in a match featuring two Full Members in the last five years – and they ambled to 29 for 7 by the time the 20th over was completed. Rohit said the idea was to weather the early storm before cashing in once the pitch eased out. The loss of wickets in quick succession though meant that plan didn’t fall in place. “We knew conditions were going to be tough but sometimes when you are put in such situations, you have to bat to the situation, which means we’ve got to respect the bowlers,” he said. “If you notice, any bowler who would have bowled in that channel would have got wickets. For us, we were trying to survive in those conditions because we knew that if initial overs get over, the wicket will get better. But we we lost wickets and we were also not scoring at pace, which put us in even more trouble.
“I don’t think we played any rash shots, they bowled in the right channel, kept us guessing all the time and batsmen were made to play all the time. It is an eye-opener, we will learn from it. It is a young batting group, the guys, including myself, will learn and play us out of these situations well next time.”
With Ajinkya Rahane missing out in difficult batting conditions, Rohit faced the inevitable questions on that front. While Rahane has struggled in Test cricket recently, his ODI form has been good: he has scored half-centuries in each of his last four innings. Rohit clarified that Rahane was dropped only because they couldn’t find a place for him in the opening slot. “I think we made it clear in Sri Lanka that he is an opening batsman and we don’t want to keep changing his batting slot. It plays on anyone’s mind not just his, if one’s batting order keeps on changing.
“We have identified him as a top-order batsman and that’s the only reason he has to sit out. Having said that we understand the runs he scored in the past few series. We want to give these guys [Manish] Pandey, [Kedar] Jadhav, [Shreyas] Iyer fair amount of games before we start touring abroad. It’s important that they take the opportunity.”
Even as seven India batsmen fell for single-digit scores, Dhoni stood out with his 87-ball 65 sprinkled with 10 fours and two sixes. His innings was particularly impressive for the way he marshalled the lower order and relatively steered India out of a potentially embarrassing situation. Rohit was unsurprised by Dhoni’s calm in the circumstances. “He has been in that situation so many times and he has proved himself again and again,” he said. “First of all I never understood that whether there was talk of him being in our plans or not. Once he gets runs, the whole conversation changes. He showed us again. I wish one of our top order was batting, so that we could have got more runs. We’ll learn from it and move forward.” (Courtesy ESPN Cricinfo)