The ball flew off Prithvi Shaw’s bat and Ishan Kishan was uber-aggressive on his ODI debut. In the first ODI of the three-match series, Shikhar Dhawan’s ‘second-string’ India had a walk in the park at Ranasinghe Premadasa Stadium in Colombo.

Chasing 263 for victory on a good pitch, the tourists won by seven wickets with 80 balls to spare. Shaw’s 24-ball 43 provided early momentum and Kishan’s 42-ball 59 took the game away from Sri Lanka. Dhawan anchored the chase with an unbeaten 86 off 95 balls but before the batsmen did their job, India’s spinners unsettled the opponents.

On his return to the Indian team, Shaw showed no signs of the excess baggage of a depressing Australia tour last winter. This was his first 50-over international in about 18 months. In batting-friendly conditions, the 21-year-old didn’t have the fear of his exaggerated hand movement impeding his natural game. The Sri Lankan new-ball bowlers, Dushmantha Chameera and Isuru Udana, barely moved the ball and Shaw cut loose from the outset. His bat-speed contributed to the way he timed the ball.

Udana bowled a full delivery around off and Shaw stayed behind the line to caress it past mid-on for a four. A couple of majestic cover drives followed in Udana’s next over. An off-drive against Chameera was even better. Shaw’s touch was mesmerising and India were galloping. The scoreboard read 57 for no loss after five overs and the hosts looked demoralised.

Overconfidence probably played a part in Shaw’s dismissal rather than the Chameera bouncer that crashed into his helmet. It upset his flow all right, but maybe Shaw would have been better off with a momentary gear-shift against off-spinner Dhananjaya de Silva. He holed out at long-on, but this knock would give the youngster a lot of confidence.

Kishan never looked like he was making his India debut in this format. The left-hander got off the mark straightaway with a six off Dhananjaya. The offie altered his length and pushed the next delivery flatter. Kishan smashed it past cover-point for a four.

Kishan’s dancing feet neutralised the Sri Lankan spinners and converted decent deliveries into hittable ones. Three consecutive fours in a Dhananjaya over was cultured aggression. Sri Lanka’s fielding didn’t help matters. Kishan should have been out on 32, but Chameera parried a straightforward catch off Charith Asalanka over the long-on boundary.

Sri Lanka’s cricket has taken a sharp downturn, which should be a matter of concern for the country’s cricket hierarchy. As for Kishan, he raced to a 33-ball half-century.

On the face of it, focus would be more on the three T20Is that follow the ODI series. Still, for the fringe players, the one-dayers are a nice opportunity to get into the groove and carry forward the form into the shortest format. India’s batting line-up for the T20 World Cup will pick itself and for someone like Dhawan, runs and strike rate in T20Is will be more important than what he does in the 50-over format. For the likes the Kishan, a good outing here will keep him in contention in case India need a backup for Rishabh Pant or KL Rahul.

The entire limited-overs series, however, is more important for the spinners, for beyond Ravindra Jadeja there’s a vacancy, going into the T20 World Cup. From that point of view, it’s a positive that Yuzvendra Chahal and Kuldeep Yadav started on a good note. Chahal broke Sri Lanka’s opening partnership and retuned with a couple of wickets. Kuldeep also bagged two wickets and looked to have got his zip and wrong’un back. Minod Bhanuka’s dismissal was a case in point, as the tossed-up delivery turned and fizzed after pitching and took the outside edge. Three balls previously, Kuldeep had accounted for Bhanuka Rajapaksa with a shortish one that skidded a bit, as Dhawan took an excellent catch. Krunal Pandya was miserly.

But Bhuvneshwar Kumar was rusty. Injury-prone of late and devoid of game time, the medium pacer’s deliveries at times sleepwalked to the wicketkeeper. Then at the death, he was taken to the cleaners by Chamika Karunaratne. The vice-captain of this team needs overs under his belt to regain his form and picking him for the Sri Lanka tour rather than the Tests in England appeared to be a fair call.

Shamik Chakrabarty … read more

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