The World number one ODI team, World Cup holders and the recently crowned ICC Champions trophy winners, India went to the West Indies for the ODI tri-series with the confidence of conquering the world and with no chinks in their armour. But, the script changed drastically within a week and after a tight loss to West Indies in the opener, the men in blue plunged to a massive 161-run defeat to Sri Lanka on Tuesday finding themselves at the bottom of the points table.
Here, Cricketnext tries to find out the reasons for this stark performance of the world beaters in the low profile tri-series.
One of the key elements in India's successful Champions Trophy campaign was their fielding. Every commentator and every article praised the Indian fielding unit and even Nasir Hussain, who had stirred a row with his 'donkey' jibe at the Indian players, was prompted to label this young Indian team as the best fielding unit of the tournament. But against Sri Lanka, the fielding was lacklustre. Mahela Jayawardene was dropped on 25, Upal Tharanga was missed on 2 and 91. Even in the first match, stand-in keeper Dinesh Karthik missed a stumping chance which proved to be the deciding factor in the game against West Indies.
Wayward pace bowling
After winning the toss, if you have to chase to a total of 348, you would know the bowlers have had a tough day at the office. The frontline bowlers - Shami Ahmed, Umesh Yadav and Ishant Sharma- leaked 200 runs between them in their 27 overs combined and were guilty of bowling too short. Incidentally, the duo of Yadav and Sharma found a good rhythm in England during the Champions Trophy bowling in the right areas and getting assistance from the seaming pitches and overcast conditions.
But on a dry track in Kingston, the bowlers had to change their strategy, but even after playing against West Indies, the pacers were not able to learn from their mistakes. While the hosts got more purchase from the pitch mixing their length well, Sri Lankan pacers too were smart enough to adjust. But the Indians just looked wayward not only banging in too short but bowling very wide as well. Sharma looked good during the business end of the Champions trophy, but here he failed to find the right line. Yadav, with his raw pace, did trouble the batsmen but he bowled at least two bad deliveries each over and the Lankan openers capitalised. Ahmed, playing in place of Bhuvneshwar Kumar, looked out of sorts playing after a long break. In the death overs, Tharanga and captain Angelo Mathews went all guns blazing, racking up 133 runs in the last 10 overs.
Ineffective Spin duo
Again, in reference to the Champions Trophy, Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja proved ineffective not only in restricting the run-flow but in taking wickets as well. Their performance was in stark contrast to the Lankan spinners - Rangana Herath and Sachitra Senanayake. In their combined 19 overs, the Chennai Super Kings spinners gave away 122 runs, scalping one wicket whereas the wily old fox Herath and lanky Senanayake prized out five wickets between them at the cost of 83 runs in 20 overs.
Jayawardene and Tharanga used their feet against the spinners and worked the ball into the gaps. Jayawardene, when on song, is a treat to watch against spinners and the former captain butchered the Indian tweakers at Sabina Park. The Lankan spinners were able to keep a stranglehold on the Indians in the middle overs, with Dhawan labouring to a 42-ball 24 and Karthik failing to read the line of the ball during his stay in the middle.
Resting Bhuvneshwar Kumar
The surprise omission of Bhuvneshwar too proved to be a wrong decision strategically and Ahmed, playing in place of the UP lad, failed to push his case. Ahead of the match Bhuvneshwar's death bowling skills, or the lack of it, were being debated propelling the Ahmed experiment. Bhuvneshwar though has been ultra-effective with the new ball picking up early wickets almost every time and India definitely missed this certain skill from the swing bowler against Sri Lanka. Also, Ahmed too proved to be futile in the death overs.
Missing MSD's midas touch
The sad reality one would say, but Kohli is not Dhoni. The Royal Challengers Bangalore captain lacked the panache of MSD and to strip it down just to the tactics, Kohli was found wanting. The 22nd ODI captain of India got a chance to lead in the first match as well when Dhoni pulled a hamstring and had to leave the field. On thay occasion as well Kohli failed to dictate the terms. While the Sri Lankan openers were going strong, Kohli persisted with his pace bowlers and it was only in the 20th over that he introduced spin. Dhoni's USP is that he thinks out of the box and more often than not his gamble pays off. Kohli might not be a successful gambler as Dhoni, but clearly, Kohli does not have any unorthodox thinking akin to his batting. This has been Kohli's 'baptism with fire' moment with regards to captaincy and it would take a lot from him to fill in the big boots of Dhoni.