Are Sri Lanka's hearts really in this series? While most teams talk themselves up pre-series, hitting upbeat, media-friendly buzzwords like "confident", "focused" and "refreshed", Sri Lanka were throwing around "under-prepared" and "challenging" before they set out for India.

The first two matches have not dispelled this idea. India have been polished and dynamic, finding fresh performers in the likes of Akshar Patel and Ambati Rayudu while key personnel take a break. Sri Lanka, meanwhile, are visibly rusty and low on spirit. They have begun the series meekly with bat and ball, and the fight that has characterised so much of their cricket in 2014, has not yet been seen.

Sri Lanka will know, however, that no matter how underdone they felt coming into this tour, or how depleted the side is, they are still engaged in an international series, and they will be judged on the strength of their performance. The excuses they began with - no matter how valid - will wear thinner with each loss.

Perhaps that is why Angelo Mathews did not mince words as he reflected on the six-wicket defeat on Thursday. "I think we're slowly getting better, but I'm disappointed and embarrassed by the fact that we were not competitive enough against the Indians," he said. "They thrashed us in the first ODI and also here. It was a convincing performance by them. We need to get our game up in the next few games to win against them."

Mathews is so far leading the way on the improvement front. His 92 not out is Sri Lanka's best individual performance of the series so far, and as has been typical of his innings this year, was perfectly in tune with the needs of the team. Mathews might have been tempted to pursue a maiden ODI ton with more abandon towards the back end of the innings, but chose a more measured approach instead, ensuring his team batted out the 50 overs.

The 92 takes his 2014 run tally to 834 - the highest so far in 2014 - and his average of 64.46 is better than that of the next five highest run scorers this year. "It would have been better if I had got a 60 and we won the game," Mathews said. "Unfortunately we ended up on the losing side. I've been pretty good with the bat in the past six-eight months, so I'm trying to continue that and be as consistent for as long as I can, and to try and contribute with either bat or ball for the team. Whoever gets a start with the bat needs to get going for the team."

Mathews admitted Sri Lanka had been lethargic in the field as India accelerated towards their target through the middle overs, but said he had explored all his options as the game began to slip away. "We tried all the bowlers and I couldn't get any wickets. I kept changing bowlers to see if we could get any," he said. Sri Lanka used all eight bowling options in the XI for the second match in a row, but so far, they have managed only nine wickets across two games.

"We don't have a few of our best bowlers here - Lasith Malinga, Rangana Herath, Suranga Lakmal, Sachithra Senanayake. But it is a learning curve for the bowlers. This is a difficult place to bowl. It takes a lot out of them mentally and physically. Our bowlers are quite inexperienced.

"But that's not an excuse, because we are playing international level, so we have to try and do well when we have the opportunity."