Sri Lanka lead the three-match series 1-0    AFP
Sri Lanka lead the three-match series 1-0 AFP

Contrary to expectations and predictions, India were thrashed by Sri Lanka in Dharamsala. At one stage, they were 29 for 7. Had there not been an MS Dhoni rescue act, India would have folded for less than 50. Such was the embarrassment that Twitterati pledged for Virat Kohli to cut his rest short to save the side from shambles. Nonetheless, Rohit Sharma is used to a slow start as skipper (look at Mumbai Indians graph whenever they have clinched the IPL title). He will definitely like to revamp the team in the second ODI at Mohali. Let us analyse what holds ahead of Mohali encounter.

The crucial No. 4 position

Shikhar Dhawan and Rohit are established openers in limited overs. They consume time but build on as the innings progresses. Dhawan gets boundaries at will while Rohit tries to ensure a daddy hundred once he settles in. However, the duo are sometimes found wanting at start of innings with the ball doing a bit. If the Mohali track offers lateral movement, it will again expose India’s inexperienced middle order.

Dinesh Karthik made vital contributions in closely-fought ODIs versus New Zealand. At Dharamsala, however, he struggled for 18 deliveries and perished without opening his account. Manish Pandey was outdone by lack of foot movement. It would be unfair to blame debutant Shreyas Iyer, as he was greeted on a fairly-green pitch against a fierce Lankan attack.

The question is: who will stand up if Dharamsala-like collapse repeats?

Dhoni ko kaun taal sakta hai?

Dhoni, India’s crisis-man, is perhaps the best bet at No. 4. Time and again he has rescued the side when they have been left in dire straits. Yes, the lower order will be weakened if the former skipper gets elevated. But it is time the onus shifts to the likes of Hardik Pandya, (Kedar Jadhav) and Pandey. Imagine India’s top four Dhawan, Rohit, Kohli and Dhoni once Kohli returns.

At 35, Dhoni is almost a father figure in the current Indian setup. His ability to stand tall when chips are down is commendable. He is the senior pro, and leads by example. He also assists Kohli with field placements and recommends smart bowling changes. In addition, he calls for DRS on behalf of other batsmen. He just nods in disagreement when the batsman at the other end makes a mistake.

In short, Dhoni is that mentor, especially for inconsistent prot g s, who continues to battle hard amidst failures till his last card is exposed. It maybe the right time for India to audition Dhoni at No. 4; dropping down Karthik and Pandey.

India’s likely XI

Rohit Sharma (c), Shikhar Dhawan, Shreyas Iyer, MS Dhoni (wk), Dinesh Karthik, Manish Pandey, Hardik Pandya, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Jasprit Bumrah, Kuldeep Yadav/Siddharth Kaul, Yuzvendra Chahal.

If India think of adding more pace to their attack, Kaul may replace Kuldeep Yadav.

Sri Lanka’s likely XI

Why tweak a winning combination that pulled off the biggest victory (in terms of most balls to spare) against India at their own den?

Niroshan Dickwella (wk), Upul Tharanga, Lahiru Thirimanne, Angelo Mathews, Danushka Gunathilaka, Asela Gunaratne, Thisara Perera (c), Sachith Pathirana, Akila Dananjaya, Suranga Lakmal, Nuwan Pradeep

However, Sri Lanka would like to reconsider Dickwella in their opening slot. He is a fiery character, and takes on the opposition from the word go. It makes little sense to drop him to No. 5.

Did you know?

– Dhoni is 69 runs away from becoming the fourth Indian to 10,000 ODI runs. Of Indians, Sachin Tendulkar (18,426), Sourav Ganguly (11,221), and Rahul Dravid (10,768) are ahead.

– Mathews needs 63 runs to 5,000 ODI runs. He will become the 10th Sri Lankan to reach the landmark. He will also become the 4th Sri Lankan to the 5,000 run-100 wicket double.

Quote unquote

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. 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. But we want to give these guys Pandey, Jadhav, Iyer fair amount of game time before we start touring abroad. Rohit.

India is a quality team and I am sure they will fight back in the next game. So, we need to be at the top of our game for the rest of the series. Mathews.

Time: 11:30 IST | 6:00 GMT