As India look to consolidating lead

Source: The Hitavada      Date: 31 Aug 2017 09:17:43


Aug 30,


MAHENDRA Singh Dhoni will be cynosure of all eyes as he gears up for his 300th ODI with a marauding India ready to tighten the noose around beleaguered Sri Lanka in the penultimate encounter of the five-match series, here on Thursday. And there is a good opportunity for the former India captain to come up with a memorable performance in his milestone match since Sri Lanka have hardly come across as respectable rivals in the lop-sided series.

Considered one of the greatest finishers in 50-over cricket, Dhoni will join India’s elite ‘Club 300’, which has Sachin Tendulkar (463), Rahul Dravid (344), Mohammed Azharuddin (334), Sourav Ganguly (311) and Yuvraj Singh (304). Dhoni should be in fine fettle after playing a significant role in bailing out the team in back-to-back tricky chases against the hosts, slowly falling apart.

The unbeaten knocks of 45 and 67 under pressure is a proof that he is still not finished and his eyes are firmly set on the 50-over World Cup of 2019. From being a world class finisher to playing a second fiddle to Rohit Sharma and Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Dhoni has added another dimension to his game. Although one can’t dismiss the fact that a rag-tag Sri Lankan bowling attack, save mystery spinner Akila Dananjaya, has failed to keep up the pressure on Dhoni and Company. After making initial inroads.

The series already sealed with an unassailable 3-0 lead, Virat Kohli’s next aim would be to give a chance to players who have only warmed the benches so far such as Kuldeep Yadav, Manish Pandey, Ajinkya Rahane and Shardul Thakur.
Kohli himself had a couple of low scoring games and he would look to getting back to scoring some more runs along with KL Rahul, who has not exactly looked comfortable in an unfamiliar No 4 position.

The only man who would feel a bit of pressure is Kedar Jadhav after successive ducks. More than the two blobs, what will bother the Jadhav is the fact that he is unable to read Dananjaya’s deliveries. In the first match, he was fooled by a googly and in the second match, he misread the length, trying to go for a sweep shot. It will be interesting if the team management decides to give Pandey a go instead of Jadhav. The only thing that can save him is his flat off-breaks, which gives Kohli an additional bowling option. Jadhav has picked three wickets in the series so far.

Pacer Thakur has looked sharp in the nets but Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Jasprit Bumrah have only played three matches and would not like to take rest. The India captain has already hinted that he wants to rotate players and chinaman Kuldeep may get a look-in. In that case, either Yuzvendra Chahal or Axar Patel will make way.

While India have some ‘happy problems’ to deal with, Sri Lanka are in deep trouble, trying to field a potent first XI.
To begin with, the selection committee headed by Sanath Jayasuriya has resigned. Sri Lanka Cricket has accepted their resignation. However, they will continue to hold office until the end of this series but there will be intense spotlight on their selection decisions as has been the case for a while now. Lack of consistency has been a key element of this Jayasuriya-led committee’s selection process. They have picked 40 players in ODIs in the past year alone, and the same merry-go-round can be foreseen ahead of this fourth match as well.

Waiting for a chance SHARDUL Thakur is yet to get a game for India despite receiving his maiden call-up more than a year ago but the Mumbai pacer says he has been patiently preparing himself for the big moment all this while. Thakur could be in line to make his international debut on Thursday when India take on Sri Lanka in the fourth ODI here. Skipper Virat Kohli had promised rotation of players and Thakur could benefit from this move if India opt to rest Bhuvneshwar Kumar or Jasprit Bumrah.

“Over the past few years I have been working hard. Whenever I get a chance to play I should be ready. Keeping that in mind I always prepare for the game. Whether they play me or not that’s the management’s role. “But if you ask me personally I just have to be ready for the game whenever I get the opportunity and I prepare accordingly,” Thakur said on Wednesday. Thakur has been part of the Indian set-up since 2016 under Anil Kumble when he toured the West Indies. He has been waiting in the wings for his chance, but the call-up for the playing eleven until now. Now, he is working closely with bowling coach Bharat Arun.

“When I first met him it was the Under-19 camp at the NCA. It was more of a technical camp where players perform when you go to the academy, work on your technique and get better. It’s only my first assignment with him in the (Indian) team and so far it’s been good.  “It’s more of match-oriented things (that I discuss with him),” said Thakur. “I feel whenever you move one level up—from domestic you go on to play IPL and from IPL you get selected to international cricket—the skill is always there. But you have got to prepare really well mentally because in international cricket the pressure is different and the pressure is different in domestic cricket,” he added.