Must improve death bowling - Gambhir
Gautam Gambhir has said India need to improve their bowling in the last ten overs of an ODI if they want to win consistently. India conceded 90 and 97 to Sri Lanka's lower-middle order from overs 41 to 50 in the first and third games of this series, and needed the batsmen to provide buffer on both occasions. The one time the batsmen failed, India lost meekly in the second ODI.
"We just didn't bowl well in the last 10 overs," Gambhir said after the five-wicket win in Colombo. "You can't afford to give 95-odd runs in the last ten overs, when they have literally two new batsmen at the crease, Angelo [Mathews] and Jeevan Mendis. Sometimes when you give 60-70 that is still tolerable, but 95-[odd is] too many runs when the [batting] Powerplay is over.
"At one stage we were thinking we can contain Sri Lanka to 250 and then chase it down, but there is a difference when you think to contain someone to 250 and then the opposition gets to 287 , that is a huge margin. If we want to be a quality side in the future and if we want to win consistently we just need to work on the last ten overs, the way our bowling is. We have given a lot of runs in the last 10 overs in the past as well. We will learn from our mistakes very soon."
While India had the cushion of 314 runs in the first ODI, today's profligacy left their batsmen needing to achieve the highest successful chase ever against Sri Lanka at home, which they managed to in the last over. Gambhir led the way with a breezy century that kept India going despite the early departure of Virender Sehwag and slow thirties from Virat Kohli and MS Dhoni. Gambhir said it was important that one of the top three batsmen batted long.
"When you are chasing 280-odd it's important that someone from the top three bats for 40 overs and tries and anchors the innings from one end, and then people can play around them. Luckily, and fortunately, it was me today [who did that]. [In the] first game Virat and Viru [Sehwag] did it and today it was my turn."
Mahela Jayawardene said Gambhir's ability to build an innings was why Sri Lanka needed to dismiss him quickly. "The other day [second ODI] he held the innings together," Jayawardene said. "He is one of those guys who we have to try and get early because he builds innings and bats long and bats big, so then it is easier for the other guys to bat around him, and he bats at a good pace as well."
Gambhir's 102 set up the eighth win in 11 games for the chasing side at the Premadasa Stadium, which used to favour the team batting first before the pitch was relaid for the 2011 World Cup. Gambhir said that pitch got better when India batted. "It was a good wicket for 100 overs and there was no breeze, though it was very humid. There was a bit of dew [and] the ball started coming on better in the second innings."
The other major blemish in India's performance was Rohit Sharma's first-ball duck. On the eve of the match, Gambhir had stood by the out-of-form batsman and his stance remained the same after Rohit fell to a Lasith Malinga yorker. Rohit averages 15.60 this year from 10 innings, and has made 5, 0 and 0 so far in this series, while Manoj Tiwary continues to be benched despite scoring a match-winning century in his last ODI in December 2011.
"If someone gets out first ball ... if someone gets set and then gets out, then he needs to think about it," Gambhir said. "Anyone can get out. I still believe, and whenever I say it I mean every word, that Rohit Sharma, according to me, is the best talent India has ever had. Let's not talk about individuals, let's not put the blame that Rohit is not doing well. When the team is doing well we need to support people who are not doing well.
Gambhir pointed out Rohit's Man-of-the-Series performances against West Indies at home and away last year. "There was a time against West Indies when neither Viru [Virender Sehwag] nor I were getting runs. It was Rohit who was single-handedly winning the games for us. Let's not single out. Everyone should back him because I see him scoring a lot of runs in the future and he could be one of the great players of Indian cricket."
Abhishek Purohit is an editorial assistant at ESPNcricinfo