A defensive Kohli lets India down against Sri Lanka

Virat Kohli was unusually defensive on Thursday in Team India’s match in the Champions Trophy and the approach arguably lost India a vital match which has thrown the tournament wide open

Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images
Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images

Vikrant Jha

India shot itself in the foot on Thursday by snatching defeat from the jaws of victory. No team before Thursday had lost a match in the Champions Trophy after scoring 321 runs in the first innings. India now has to win its match on Sunday against South Africa to reach the semi-finals. The winner of the Pakistan-Sri Lanka match on Monday will also move to the semi-final of the Champions Trophy.

It was a stupendous effort from a young Sri Lankan side to defeat the in-form Indian team by scripting a record chase of 323 in Champions Trophy. Although the Sri Lankan team played magnificently, at one point India was way ahead of the match and it looked like an easy affair for the Indian side.

India let the momentum shift to Sri Lankan side

After being invited to bat first by Angelo Mathews, Indian openers responded beautifully by piling up a 138-run opening stand. Rohit Sharma and Shikhar Dhawan started cautiously to bring up just 48 runs in the first 10 overs but as soon as the batsmen had seen off the initial burst by the rival bowlers, Rohit Sharma launched a blistering attack on the Sri Lankans. Ironically, Rohit’s over-aggressive gameplay cost his wicket when he was on 78 and that’s when India allowed the momentum to slacken.

Captain Virat Kohli followed Sharma to the pavilion without troubling the scorers and Yuvraj Singh never looked comfortable while facing 18 balls and grafting just seven runs. Sri Lanka captured the opportunity with both hands and when Dhoni joined Dhawan in the middle, even taking a single looked like a tricky affair.

Over number 30 to 40, that’s where India lost it

Between overs 30 and 40, all that India could manage was to score 49 runs. Three quick wickets halted India’s attack and Dhawan and Dhoni, in the process of rebuilding the innings, couldn’t manage to score freely. Subsequently, in the same phase between overs 30 to 40, Sri Lanka scored 63 while chasing. The difference proved to be the difference between the winning and the losing side.

The fourth and fifth bowler went missing

Even after piling up a seemingly safe 321 runs on the board, the Indian team lost the match with eight balls to spare. The Indian bowling came a cropper. While the three pacers, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Umesh Yadav and Jasprit Bumrah, conceded 175 runs in 29.4 overs, the slower bowlers in the remaining 19 overs gave in 138 runs. These 19 overs were to be bowled by Spinners Ravindra Jadeja and all-rounder Hardik Pandya. But both were hammered by Sri Lankan batsmen. Jadeja allowed 52 runs in just six overs while Pandya gave away 51 off seven.

Even more of concern was the ease with which the Sri Lankan batsmen demolished Jadeja and Pandya, India’s fourth and fifth bowlers. Captain Kohli and Kedar Jadhav had to replace them and bowl the rest of the overs. Although they bowled tight lines, Indian team management would like to address the issue before the do-or-die-clash against the mighty South Africans on Sunday.

An uncharacteristic captaincy by Kohli

Virat Kohli has often been criticised for his ‘over-attacking’ attitude on the field but the Indian Captain’s approach on Thursday even surprised Sourav Ganguly who was in the commentators’box. The former skipper credited with one of the best cricketing brains, Ganguly was surprised at Kohli’s decision to let two new batsmen steal easy singles at the beginning of their innings.

After Indian bowlers’ disappointing show, fielders showed some fight as India ran both the settled batsmen out. Danushka Gunathilaka (76 off 72) and Kusal Mendis (89 off 93) were run out. Kusal Perera and skipper Mathews replaced them in the middle. At one point, when India still had 140 to defend and two new batsmen were at the crease, Ganguly said on air, “Virat Kohli should bring the field in and stop the singles. You still have 140 to defend and this is the time when you build pressure by stopping easy runs.”

Virat Kohli’s approach was however far too defensive and rather uncharacteristically he set a defensive field even after Sri Lanka had lost the third wicket and were still to score more than 140 runs to win.

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Published: 09 Jun 2017, 4:02 PM