Before Sunday, it may have sounded hypothetical if one said India were precariously placed at 29 for 7 in an One-Day International (ODI) game against Sri Lanka at home. But it turned out to be an astonishing reality at Dharamsala in the series opener.

Sri Lankan bowlers exploited the vicious conditions and made the Indian batsmen dance to their tune. Saying that Sri Lankan bowlers were making the ball talk would be an understatement. India’s vulnerability against swing bowling was brutally exposed by Sri Lankan seamers on a surface, which had tremendous movement off the seam.

Barring MS Dhoni, India’s batting tumbled like nine pins and looked bereft of oomph when the ball was doing everything. A good batsman not only scores runs on flat wickets but also impresses on difficult wickets, which Dhoni proved with some astuteness and care.

At one stage, India were all set to record the lowest ever ODI total by any side (35). But Dhoni stood like a rock amid the collapse and ensured India crossed the 100-run mark. Riding on Dhoni’s heroics, India managed 112, which is also their third-lowest ODI total at home.

The fact that Sri Lanka bowled 13 maiden overs in the entire game itself speaks about the kind of domination their bowlers had over Indian batsman. This is also the most number of maidens in an ODI for India. Although the pitch was aiding the seamers, but Indian batsmen did show poor technique.

When the ball is moving both the ways, it becomes harder for the batsman to judge the swing. He is still guessing and this is where experience and ability to tackle swing comes into play. At this level, the time frame to gauge the direction of the ball is minimal and one can’t afford to step a foot wrong. It requires a different set of skills, which was certainly missing from the Indian batsmen barring Dhoni today.

India scored just 11 runs off the powerplay overs, losing three crucial wickets. India’s faulty batting technique against the swinging delivery once again came to the fore. When the ball is doing so much, a team needs too reassess their strategy and most importantly play out the new ball.

Sri Lankan bowlers were tightening the noose around India with unblemished accuracy and were exploiting the conditions to the fullest. There was something happening on every delivery, every over. In conditions like this, Mathews could be a tricky bowler to deal with.

Bowling between 120-130 kmph, Mathews was moving the ball both ways smartly. He trapped Shikhar Dhawan leg before with one that moved into the left-hander. Dhawan was trying to work it on the leg side, which could be fatal when the ball is moving so much and missed it completely. By now, signs were clear that bowlers were getting immense help from the surface and the situation demanded Indian batsmen to bid time at the crease.

Skipper Rohit Sharma poked at a delivery outside off and ended up getting a feather only to be dismissed for a couple. Dinesh Karthik was worked out by Suranga Lakmal, who was in the middle of an incredible spell. Karthik was beautifully set up by a series of outswingers and then outfoxed with an in-swinging delivery. He was stuck in the crease only to be trapped leg before for a 18-ball duck while trying to work the ball towards mid-on.

In a situation like this, rotation of strike plays a massive role. Getting to the other end and keeping the scoreboard ticking is probably one of the best ways to negotiate such bowling. Runs dried up and Indian batsmen found it almost difficult to get to the other end. They let Sri Lankan bowlers just bowl and settle down.

Manish Pandey played with a close faced bat and his feet was going nowhere as the white leather took a healthy edge straight to Mathews at first slip. Debutant Shreyas Iyer resisted for a while, but ended up chopping on a length delivery. The ball nipped slightly in while he was trying to cut, again, no foot movement. Hardik Pandya was caught in two minds, which resulted in a fine edge to the first slip.

This was not the first time when India’s batting has stumbled against quality pace attack. It has happened more often in the recent times. The ODI game against Australia in Chennai and the ICC Champions Trophy final against a rejuvenated Pakistani side are two classic examples. India’s batting also floundered in the first innings of the Kolkata Test, which was very similar to the Dharamsala pitch.

With South Africa tour around the corner, this terrible exhibition of batting does not bode well for India. One can expect the conditions in South Africa to be similar to what was dished out in Dharamshala. And one wouldn’t be wrong in saying that the Proteas have a much better bowling attack than that of Sri Lanka, which will test India’s Achilles’ heels.


India have been unstoppable at home and if they are eyeing to continue their domination on alien land, this imperfection against swing bowling needs to be addressed. As of now, the onus of making a comeback in the ongoing series is now on India with Sri Lanka gaining a healthy 1-0 lead.

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