When India arrived in Sri Lanka in mid-July, the hosts were considered as underdogs who would put up a fight in the series, especially in shorter-formats. All those hopes were brought to nothing after the 9-0 series pummeling as the Indians ticked all the boxes by absolutely dominating the Lankans in all aspects of the game, to leave with a clean sheet.
The belief in the game in the island nation has hit an all-time low due to some extremely poor on-field performances and serious off-field issues. The patience levels of the dedicated fans have started to run thin and due to that fact, the angry, unruly fans threw empty bottles in disappointment in Pallekelle during the 3rd ODI which ultimately led to the stepping down of the Sanath Jayasuriya headed selection panel.
Sri Lanka who have always performed above expectations at ICC events, failed to seal direct qualification to ICC World Cup 2019 by their performances and now, must wait for the results of the upcoming England-West Indies series to come good in favour of the Englishmen.
India had only one leader in Virat Kohli throughout the tour, who led from the front, scoring big runs and breaking records but Sri Lanka was led by 5 captains in 9 games as injuries and suspensions hit hard.
The biggest setback Sri Lanka suffered throughout the tour was the never-ending series of injuries to main players. Test Captain Dinesh Chandimal was diagnosed with pneumonia prior to the first Test match and from the first session in Galle where Asela Gunaratne broke his thumb until the T20I, 8 Sri Lankan players were sidelined due to various injuries.
Gunaratne’s and Nuwan Pradeep’s injuries are perhaps the costliest ones due to their phenomenal success in the recent past. Sri Lanka hoped to play with a settled 15-man squad in ODIs but still their continuity was affected by injuries.
The 250-run barrier
Sri Lanka has been going through a phase of transition for quite some time now but they can no longer reason out the retirements of Kumar Sangakkara, Mahela Jayawardene and Tillakaratne Dilshan for their plight. Their batting throughout the ODIs was quite poor as they were not able to cross 250 run mark even once in the 5-match series which ultimately led to their first-ever 5-0 whitewash in ODIs at home.
Jasprit Bumrah was all over the Lankans taking 15 wickets but the shot selection, adapting to conditions and negotiating the pressure was never properly executed by the Lankans.
Kusal Mendis and Niroshan Dickwella, two of the more promising talents presently failed to deliver the goods consistently while Angelo Mathews, the former Captain was the highest run-scorer with 192 runs in 5 innings. The return of Lahiru Thirimanne towards the latter part of the limited-overs series was one of the rare positives for the hosts, although his strike rate would be something he looks to improve.
Earlier in the Tests, Sri Lanka had only two hundreds, both in the 2nd innings of the Colombo Test, from Dimuth Karunaratne and Kusal Mendis. Karunaratne reiterated his stance as Sri Lanka’s number 1 opener in Test cricket for now, topping the batting charts with 285 runs. His challenge will be to produce big scores in the first innings, where he has been found wanting.
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Sri Lanka’s bowling struggled throughout the tour as they could get only a total of 56 Indian wickets out of the 120 available scalps whereas their opponents claimed 114 scalps out of 120. Sri Lankans bowled well in patches but the consistency was nowhere to be found.
Nuwan Pradeep looked threatening during his 60+ overs before breaking down in the 2nd Test, Rangana Herath had never been played better by a visiting team and the experienced Lasith Malinga looked out of sorts and form, taking only 3 wickets during the ODIs.
The lions have always depended on surprise, mystery, unorthodoxy in their bowling and Dananjaya provided some spark for the hosts in the 2nd ODI – the lone bright spot for Sri Lanka in what was an otherwise depressing tour. Their main concern in the future would be, dismissing opponents twice in Tests and restricting strong batting units in limited-overs cricket.
Sri Lanka’s desire to fight and put on a show in doing so is what has made them a formidable unit throughout the past few decades. Now, they’re just a pale shadow of a glorious past. The challenge is to get them to believe in themselves, go out in belief of victory rather than in fear of defeat. A lot of soul searching needs to be done.
These are humbling times – when things go wrong, cracks start showing and the blame games have started at the top. The turnaround time isn’t much. Sri Lanka are scheduled to travel to the United Arab Emirates later this month to take on Pakistan in a full tour, then arrive in India for the return series of three Tests, and as many ODIs and T20Is.