India can afford to experiment

Erapalli Prasanna

July 8, 2002

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The winning run of the Indian team continues. With the four-wicket victory over Sri Lanka at Edgbaston, India have now played five consecutive one-day internationals without being beaten, an achievement of which they can be justifiably proud. With the English summer finding them at their best, the Indians, after six matches in the tri-series, are clearly ahead of the other two teams.

Sri Lanka, meanwhile, are yet to win a international match on this tour and now they only have a couple of more matches in which to rediscover their winning ways.

Ashish Nehra
© CricInfo
After all the overnight rain in Birmingham, there was a fair chance that the pitch would suit the seamers. Ashish Nehra made good use of the new ball after Sourav Ganguly won the toss and put the Sri Lankans in. I thought that the lad deserved more than the solitary scalp of Sanath Jayasuriya in the first spell.

Ajit Agarkar once again picked up a wicket with his first ball in the match. He was able to get the ball to move around a fair bit off the seam. The fact that his economy rate has also improved in this triseries has been a big bonus for India.

Ganguly, for his part, handled his bowling resources very well. When he found out that Marvan Atapattu and Mahela Jayawardene were settling down against the medium-pacers, he brought on the experienced Anil Kumble. It was the double-blow that Kumble inflicted - sending back both Jaywardene and Atapattu in quick succession - which really turned things in India's favour.

The rest of the Sri Lankan batting cut a sorry figure, barring the pyrotechnics of Chaminda Vaas. A target of 188 was never going to trouble the Indian batting line-up which possessed great depth.

Added to this was the fact that the Sri Lankan team management had shot themselves in the foot by dropping Nuwan Zoysa. The track was bowler-friendly, yet despite Vaas and Fernando bowling brilliantly, the Sri Lankans found themselves hamstrung by the fact that there simply was no one else to support them. Wickramasinghe seems a spent force, and I wondered why Charitha Buddhika was not played - the youngster has the ability to move the ball both ways off the seam.

There were a few decisions that should have gone in the fielding side's favour when India was batting. To make matters worse, Chandana and Fernando dropped quite simple catches at backward point. It is not at all judicious to drop catches off Ganguly and Sachin Tendulkar, when you are defending a modest total. And to add insult to injury, Dravid was caught off a no-ball from Fernando.

But that said, the rub of the green goes your way on certain days while on other days it doesn't. These indeed are dark days for Sri Lankan cricket. Having said that, I thought that the men from the Emerald Isles fought hard to comeback and win the match, making the afternoon chase an excruciating affair for the Indians.

Jayasuriya must be glad to see that Vaas has finally found his rhythm, albeit a bit too late in the summer. A period of soul-searching, however, awaits Sri Lankan cricket at the end of the series.

Rahul Dravid
© CricInfo
It was once again a 91-run partnership between Rahul Dravid and Yuvraj Singh that helped India to their third win in the tri-series. Dravid put all his experience to good use and was deservedly named the Man of the Match. Yuvraj, meanwhile, is rapidly maturing into a high-class batsman; Saturday saw him play with a lot of responsibility while lending solid support to Dravid.

It was nice to see the youngster curb his natural flamboyance when the situation demanded it, and I am sure he has taken the first step towards shrugging away the one-day specialist tag and turning himself into a serious contender for a place in the Test team.

Now that India have qualified for the final, they can sit back and plan for it. I reckon it is time for the team management to carry out some experiments and I wouldn't be surprised if VVS Laxman comes in to replace Dinesh Mongia for the next match. It would also be a good idea to rotate a bit, by playing Harbhajan Singh and Tinu Yohannan, before the final match at Lord's on July 13.

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