February 11, 2009

Winning the last game was a relief - Muttiah Muralitharan

We won the final match and it was a relief to do so. But we were beaten fair and square in the end by India. We were outplayed in all departments. While we are disappointed, and Sri Lanka fans are obviously upset, we should all realise that we lost to the best one-day team in the world.

India may be ranked No 3 in the world after Australia and South Africa, but for me that they are the best one-day team in all conditions. There have proven they are now better than Australia, at home and Down Under. South Africa are coming-up fast, but I don't think they are yet good enough in the sub-continent to be No 1.

The best thing about this India team is the strength of its batting. They have a rock-solid line-up. At the top they have great players of pace and we all know how good they are against spin. But what stands them apart is the power of their players, they have guys who can really hit the boundaries and that is a priceless asset in limited overs cricket.

They also have a cool-headed captain in Mahendra Singh Dhoni who gives the middle order so much stability. He is a real force and the best and most reliable finisher in world cricket today. It gives India the perfectly balanced batting line-up and makes them a formidable opponent.

But it is not just their batting. They have two world-class fast bowlers in Zaheer Khan and Ishant Sharma. Both have come on a long way and both provide major threats with the new ball. The support bowling is improving, with Praveen Kumar doing well in this particular series, and when Harbhajan Singh returns they'll be even stronger still.

So while losing is always painful, we need to have some perspective and not overreact. We weren't at our best, we made some mistakes, and we must learn from this. But we were playing a very strong team. We are developing and improving, but, clearly, we still have some way to go until we are on a par with India. They are now at the top of the pile and to beat them any side needs to play exceptional cricket.