India in Sri Lanka 2015 September 2, 2015

The Ashwin show, and Ishant's second wind

R Ashwin and Ishant Sharma dismantled the the opposition, Amit Mishra came back strongly, and Virat Kohli grew as captain during the series win in Sri Lanka


Virat Kohli (233 runs at 38.83)

India's highest run-getter of a series where largely the bowlers ruled. Started with a century in Galle, his scores reading: 103, 3, 78, 10, 18 and 21 and found his dismissal chasing a tempter on the fifth stump over and over. As captain, though, he learnt, and he grew, finding a way to pick up a team from the blue funk of its shock defeat in the first Test. Barring one harried, fretful session at the SSC, carried himself and the team with dignity and equanimity in both defeat and victory.

R. Ashwin (21 wickets at 18.09)

Man of the series, leading wicket-taker, established himself as lead spinner, who led the charge through consistency and patience, when the innings had to be broken into at the P Sara or chipped away on the final day of the series. His captain said he wanted Ashwin cemented as an allrounder but a tennis elbow injury and scores of 7, 3, 2, 19, and 5 meant he was bumped down the order behind Amit Mishra. Ashwin responded with a vital 58 as India pushed for a tall target at the SSC and then broke the batting with 4 for 69.

Ishant Sharma (13 wickets at 23.23)

India's enforcer in the series, not merely because of his complete range of wicket celebrations or send-offs or heightened dramatic scenes with Dhammika Prasad. This was Ishant as had always been promised and dreamt of - leading the attack, with pace, intensity, discipline, and bloody-minded persistence. Uninjured, unhindered, unleashed. Sticking to the game plan without distraction, fatigue or frustration, he carried the younger pacemen along with him by example. His 200th Test wicket, straight full to Angelo Matthews with the new ball, all but marked the end of the SSC Test and it is to be hoped, has marked Ishant's thrilling second wind as India's leading pace bowler.

Amit Mishra (15 wickets at 15, 157 runs at 26.16)

Mishra returned to Test cricket after four years and proved to his captain and his teammates just how competitive he could be, bat, ball, and presence. In Galle, he cleaned up the Sri Lankan tail, played perfect foil to Ashwin as pressure-creator and skillful practitioner, bowling quicker through the air and produced the most watchable ball by an India bowler all series - the drifting leg break to Jehan Mubarak at P Sara. The natural leader of the lower order


Ajinkya Rahane (178 runs at 29.66)

Kohli's much-trusted vice-captain, a middle-order batsman of equanimity, ability and versatility, Rahane moved up to No.3 and handled the reshuffled spot by uncorking a fine second-innings century at the P Sara where he egged the lower order on. His scores with the bat other than the century were meagre, but his role in the field was tremendous. A safe-as-houses first slip to the spinners and gully to the quicks, Rahane's world record of eight catches in the first Test became the standard by which the rest of India's fielders behind the wicket must measure themselves.

Cheteshwar Pujara (145 runs at 145)

A sudden demand, an assured reply. Cheteshewar Pujara returned to the top of the Indian order as a part of its third opening combination and reminded everyone just how valuable his gifts are. He scored almost half India's runs in the first innings on an SSC wicket that was a bowling beast. Pujara's assured return at the top has sent out a message to the team's bosses and the selectors - drop me if you can.

Cheteshwar Pujara stepped up in a stop-gap role, laying the foundation for India's win at the SSC © AFP


Rohit Sharma (202 runs at 33.66)

A batsman teetering between being inconsistent and imperious, Rohit Sharma ended up scoring more runs in the series than Indian batsman other than his captain. Deal with that. After the gloom at No.3 and No.4 in Galle, he was moved down to No.5. Rohit responded by cranking out two timely fifties, as only he can with insouciant strokeplay and oh-damn dismissals at the most inopportune times. Yet, when it counted, his second innings effort at the SSC was monumental. He came in 7 for 3 and created two fifty-plus partnerships that helped the visitors create a bulky enough target for Sri Lanka to chase. Love him or loathe him, when Rohit turns up, there's a chance tides can turn too.

Wriddhiman Saha (131 runs at 43.66 , 2 catches, 1 stumping)

India's injury-prone wicketkeeper was doing fine until his hamstring gave way during a handy batting effort in the second Test. Saha had opened the series by dropping Chandimal on the first day of the tour, but after that clanger, became more assured in his wicketkeeping. He scored two fifties, a more than capable anchor for the lower order. In the five-bowler theory, Saha is a perfect fit.

Naman Ojha (56 runs at 28, 4 catches, 1 stumping)

Did what he was expected to, after being air-dropped onto the tour, having spent 15 years in first-class cricket waiting for the spotlight. Two years older than Saha, Ojha is definitely as feisty a batsman and not one to be daunted by the occasion. As a keeper, he is yet to be tested by spin on square turners. But Ojha is a quick learner and is noted for having made marked improvement with the gloves just like he's developed his batting over the last five seasons. An assured back up to Saha.


Shikhar Dhawan (162 runs at 81)

Batting with a hand that was only later found to be broken, Shikhar Dhawan's century in the first innings kick-started India's opening salvos in the Galle Test. His second innings was far slower and tentative, hampered both by a growing injury and Sri Lanka's renewed energy after Dinesh Chandimal's wildfire hundred. To be fair, others who followed him in Galle, could have done more but who knows what Dhawan would have done had he been fully fit?

Umesh Yadav (5 wickets at 42.80)

Umesh Yadav was quite often very quick, very often a little profligate, but not as disciplined as he needed more times than most. Despite beinng wayward, Umesh produced a work-rate that would have pleased his coaches. His ability to provide the searing breakthrough that others could ride on would have made Kohli's heart sing. Like the first ball bowled to Angelo Mathews on the final day at P Sara when India needed eight wickets to equal the series. Sri Lanka's spirit was broken and it was Umesh who started it.

Stuart Binny (76 runs at 19, 3 wickets at 39)

The moment team director Ravi Shastri referred to Stuart Binny as the half in the four-and-a-half bowlers, his name became fodder for social media. But Binny did his job as the fifth bowler; producing swing off the Kookaburra, controlling the flow of runs, conceding under three runs an over and being an option for Kohli to lean on. If Binny wants to stay in demand, though, his batting will have to find, what the great Hercule Poirot believed in: order and method.


KL Rahul had a Jekyll-Hyde series both with the bat and on the field © AFP

KL Rahul (126 runs at 21)

The team's youngest member, maybe its most unpredictably eccentric both with bat and on the field. Rahul held on to his opening spot because others around him kept getting injured. Beyond his second Test century (108) at the P Sara, he scored a total of 18 runs from five innings. He did tackle spin beautifully in one innings at the P Sara, but 2,2,2 7 and 5 and his two judicious leaves at the SSC became red-faced reminders that there is considerable work to be done. A few sitters dropped at slip and a few blinders taken. The boy's life is not boring.

M Vijay (82 runs at 41)

The one Indian batsman who spent most time on the crease over the last 18 months, spent most of his time at the start of the tour waiting to be fit. Vijay turned up at the P Sara and was assured in his 82, but the hamstring wasn't in the shape he it needed to be. It will be a dogfight for the opening spot when South Africa tours India, but if fit and fine, Vijay will be first man in and the first man marking his guard.

Varun Aaron - (2 wickets 53.50)

Pace like fire was not accompanied by discipline of a nerd and it was what cost Aaron his spot in the eleven. In the second innings, he was munched into by Chandimal, Thirimanne and Mubarak and his ability to work a large number of overs, is still to be developed. Pace is pace, but discipline gets wickets.


Harbhajan Singh (1 wicket at 90)

A disappointing lone Test for Harbhajan in Galle where he was called in to be the third arm of a spin triumvirate on a turning track. Harbhajan was unable to generate bounce or turn in Galle; when pushed up the order ahead of Ashwin to strike a few blows and thaw out the frozen Indian second innings, Harbhajan found himself entangled in Sri Lanka's spin too. When the team had to be reshuffled for the second Test, he was naturally the first to go.

Sharda Ugra is senior editor at ESPNcricinfo