Ever since Sanath Jayasuriya and Romesh Kaluwitharana started to clear the 30-yard circle in the 1996 ODI World Cup, the first powerplay started playing a major role in deciding the outcome of a match. In the modern form of cricket where the entire innings is of just 20 overs, it comes down to ‘the first six’, an area where India was outclassed by their counterparts in the ongoing Nidahas Trophy on Tuesday evening.
The Indian cricket team under the leadership of Rohit Sharma started the Nidahas Trophy as favourites even though five of the regular starters (Virat Kohli, MS Dhoni, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Jasprit Bumrah and Hardik Pandya) were missing from the squad. On the other hand, Sri Lanka who made a rather embarrassing record in 2017 by becoming the first team to lose 40 matches in a calendar year was hit hard by the injury news of its most experienced player: Angelo Matthews.
However, when the hosts took at the field at Colombo, they were filled with a different kind of energy that was enough to dismantle Rohit Sharma’s men in blue. Kusal Perera who was making a comeback to the team took on the Indian bowlers, smoking them all around the park, scoring 66 runs off just 37 balls with the help of four sixes and six fours.
The Indian bowlers tried to pull things back picking up a few quick wickets in the latter half of the innings including Shardul Thakur who was dispatched for 27 runs in his first, and match’s 3rd over. In the end, this was probably the difference between the two sides.
India being a top-heavy side with Rohit Sharma, Shikhar Dhawan and Suresh Raina taking the first three spots in the batting order, is expected to extract a good amount of runs in the first six overs. However, they were pushed back by the Sri Lankan side as both Rohit and Raina were back in the hut with just 9 runs on board.
This forced Shikhar Dhawan (who played a crucial knock of 90) to hold back his shots and rotate the strike for a few overs, resulting in just 40 runs from the first six overs. On the other hand, Sri Lanka, after losing Kusal Mendis when the scoreboard read 12, lost its next wicket at the score of 70, allowing Perera to open his arms and go after the Indian bowlers.
As a result, Sri Lanka managed to score 75 for 2 in the powerplay, almost double of what the visitors had scored.
— BCCI (@BCCI) March 6, 2018
What made matters worse for India was Manish Pandey and Rishabh Pant’s failure to find the middle of the bat. Both these batsmen scored almost at run a ball and failed to up the scoring rate when it mattered. In fact, even Dhawan scored two of his first four boundaries off mistimed shots.
The southpaw, while talking to media, after the match admitted that the two early wickets did a lot of damage to India. “When you lose two wickets in the first two overs.. if we hadn’t lost them, we would have been more aggressive. But we had to see to it that we don’t lose any more wickets and at the same time, score runs. We were maybe 5-6 runs short to what we generally achieve, maybe 10 runs short,” he said.
India managed to hit just five fours in the first six overs while Sri Lanka smashed eight fours and four sixes in the same period, giving it a massive advantage and added pressure on the Indian bowlers.
In the second match of the tournament against Bangladesh, India needs to find an answer to this problem. Suresh Raina has been an outstanding performer in the Indian Premier League over the years but ever since making a comeback to the Indian team on South African tour has failed to register a big score.
Moreover, to include him in the playing XI, Virat Kohli who is by far the best Indian batsman had to demote himself to number 4 in South Africa, a move that the team management may have to justify in soon. Also, there is an in-form KL Rahul sitting on the bench who can bat anywhere in top 4 and it might be hard to leave him out for too long.
As history reckons, facing Bangladesh in T20Is has always been a tricky task for the Indian cricket team and Mahmudullah would be hoping that tomorrow is no different.