Ahead of his first assignment as India coach, Rahul Dravid had made it clear that he cannot make the same promise to the 20 players on tour in Sri Lanka that he usually does when he oversees the country’s developmental teams – a promise of every player playing at least one game before returning home. With half of India’s white-ball regulars currently in England, the squad strength for the Sri Lanka ODI series has been pruned to 15, with the focus solely on winning.

The ODI series is already in the bag, but Dravid may not want to ring in wholesale changes on Friday, as the home team has shown improvement with each passing fixture. Devdutt Padikkal and Ruturaj Gaikwad, two of India’s six uncapped players from the long list, are possibly the brightest talents to have seamlessly graduated from the domestic circuit to the IPL. Now they eagerly wait for the final promotion to don India’s blue.

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From among those who did get an opportunity to prove their worth in the two matches gone by, Prithvi Shaw and Ishan Kishan will be keen to solidify their respective gameplans. Sri Lanka has twice dismissed Shaw using spin – which the youngster is known to otherwise dominate. On the evidence of his past showings, Shaw is equally adept against pace too. But a lesson worth learning for Shaw could well be to control the force with which he drives the slower bowlers. In Kishan’s case, being on the offensive often gives him an edge. But if Dravid sees a benefit in the southpaw tempering his attacking instincts, he could well point that out before the final ODI.

For others like Manish Pandey and Kuldeep Yadav, this could be their last chance in a long while to leave a lasting mark, given that there are many others ahead of them in the lengthy queue to make the team for the T20 series. A stroke of bad luck cut short a promising Pandey innings in the last ODI. He will be keen on another chance.

Both Kuldeep and Yuzvendra Chahal have benefitted from bowling together again, impressing in one match each. They haven’t looked like the wicket-takers they were for a period between 2017 and 2019, but the pair clearly cherish bowling in the 50-over format more than others. Chahal, who picked up 3/50 in the second ODI, has also adapted to T20 very well, but Kuldeep continues to battle a mid-career crisis. A full series of bowling complete spells will give him the requisite confidence, but Rahul Chahar is knocking on the door as well.

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Meanwhile, Deepak Chahar was the unlikely batting hero on Wednesday and has been able to showcase his entire range of white-ball skills. Bhuvneshwar Kumar, however, has lacked that spring in his step since his return, and he will know the importance of the coming matches to ensure he is on flight to the T20 World Cup in the UAE.

In the dressing room after the series was won, coach Dravid asked his players to not rest on their laurels till the series was over, because SL are known to respond. “They did (in the second game) and we responded back like a champion team,” he told his players.

Wanindu Hasaranga threatened to win the last match on his own with his leg spin, while pacer Dushmantha Chameera too has had his moments. On the other side of batting order, Charith Asalanka and Chamika Karunaratne have both got runs. This opposition may not be as great as some of the Sri Lankan outfits of yore, but Dasun Shanaka’s side has refused to roll over. The young men in this Indian team will do well to closely adhere to Dravid’s advice.



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