India v Sri Lanka, 2nd Test, Kanpur, 4th day November 27, 2009

India hit century on road to top

India rank as one of the most consistent sides in world cricket now, so much so that a victory in Mumbai will put them at the top of the Test rankings

There was one important similarity between India's first Test victory in 1952 and their hundredth today: Celebrations were restrained - "subdued", as Wisden reported of the first instance - on both occasions. Back in the fifties that was a sign as much of the times as of India's minnow status - Vijay Hazare's men were not expected to surprise Donald Carr's side to level the five-Test rubber in Madras. Half a century later, India rank as one of the more consistent sides in world cricket and there were no pretensions about their comprehensive win over Sri Lanka in Kanpur today.

One possible reason for the restraint shown today is that this Indian team is finally getting used to winning. Through this decade, India have moved steadily towards the top of the table under spirited leaders like Sourav Ganguly, Rahul Dravid, Anil Kumble and now MS Dhoni. Their individualistic approach encouraged team-mates to express themselves clearly. At the same time every player got his own space and subsequently the dressing-room environment has become more positive and transparent.

The effects were evident in the performance of Sreesanth in Kanpur. He walked into the team from the cold, a discard with a dodgy temperament. His 19-month spell in isolation taught him patience and fired his hunger; he reined in his wild side and focussed instead on bowling good balls consistently while working batsmen out.

Sreesanth's inclusion was a punt alright but a calculated decision. Not convinced by Ishant Sharma's ability to come out of his rough patch, the team put its faith in Sreesanth's prodigious reverse-swinging capabilities. In return, he fast-tracked Sri Lanka's downfall on Thursday with terrific spells of swing and seam bowling. "He played in a different way this Test," a clearly pleased Dhoni said after the Test. "He was aggressive but controlled his emotions. That's what is important."

The operating margins at this level of cricket are wafer-thin; India's decision on Sreesanth proved inspired while Sri Lanka's gamble on three spinners, expecting the pitch to break as soon as the sun came out, left them high and dry. Yet India had a plan and stuck to it. They read correctly the Green Park pitch as dry and tending towards the slower side despite a light stubble on the eve of the game.

So Amit Mishra celebrated his birthday on the bench watching the left-arm spinner Pragyan Ojha making his debut. A good debut too - forget his four wickets, what was most impressive about his performance was his accuracy. Every time he was thrown the ball he put the Sri Lankans on the defensive. The weight of his success increases when you compare him to Ajantha Mendis, whose mystery has been built by his skill to pitch the ball accurately and consistently on the same spot.

That Mendis was rendered ineffective was because the Indian openers Virender Sehwag and Gautam Gambhir attacked him relentlessly and forced him to change his lines and lengths. He was not the only Sri Lankan bowler to lose his confidence. Throughout the two games Muttiah Muralitharan has been made to look a pedestrian by the Indian batsmen, who took advantage of the slow pitches on offer at both Ahmedabad and Kanpur and erased in part the wounds inflicted on them by these two bowlers in Sri Lanka last year.

That series included India's last Test defeat, in Colombo. In 11 subsequent Tests, spanning four series (including the current one), India have won five Tests. They are now favourites to win their fourth straight series as they travel to the Brabourne Stadium, the venue of India's first Test in 1933; if they win there they will take the top spot in the ICC Test rankings. Much has been achieved in 57 years; much remains to be done.

Nagraj Gollapudi is an assistant editor at Cricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • crownish on November 28, 2009, 15:09 GMT

    India's first test was at the Bombay Gymkhana grounds and not Brabourne Stadium

  • shamsi on November 28, 2009, 12:41 GMT

    a nice feel of india win.but its not a win by batsmen.pitch was tailormade for batsmen and if these big name did some it was good.but real work done by our bowlers.well done our team india.but pls u all dont support a selfish cricketer like tendulker.who always played for records

  • Arjun on November 28, 2009, 12:00 GMT

    Farce-Follower...Mix Dravid and Sehwag, and you have Gambhir.

  • Raghu on November 28, 2009, 9:25 GMT

    This series marks the end of Murali as a bowler against teams used to playing spin. He should gracefully retire, and if records are important to him, concentrate against the lesser teams to reach 800 wickets. India and Australia will not oblige him.

  • atul on November 28, 2009, 7:59 GMT

    Well done Indian cricket team. Tendulkar is getting due reward for his love of game for the past 20 years. Though he still cherishes a world cup win before he retires, yet last 5-10 ten years of cricket after match fixing saga, has seen India as a dominant force in world cricket on every front. They have won 20-20 world cup, reacehd final of world cup in south africa, have beaten teams on foreign shores consistently nowadays. So I really feel good for Crickets true gentleman getting rewarded now. May he gets the strength to accomplish more feats for India before he stop playing all forms of cricket.

  • Harish on November 28, 2009, 2:58 GMT

    The two most valuable players in this side : Sehwag and Dravid. One sets it up for India, even in the most adverse conditions. The other lends stability, again, in the most adverse conditions.

  • Pradeep on November 28, 2009, 2:11 GMT

    yes. A good victory for also remember it was lrgley thanks to the pitch...if SL had won the toss and batted first the result could easily been this margin for SL...

  • shaurya on November 28, 2009, 1:06 GMT

    a special moment for all of us to celebrate..jai hind

  • PATTABIRAMAN on November 28, 2009, 0:12 GMT

    The Indian selectors had chosen Sreesanth by default who was the obvious first choice for Tests.Now that he has performed ,the selectors will do well to reign him in on his on-field and off-field antics and ensure that he is a regular member of the side for tests.The Indian pace attack will be well-settled with the inclusion of Asish Nehra who has been bowling brilliantly.Zaheer Khan,Sreeshanth,Ishant Sharma and Asish Nehra will serve for atleast another 2 years.Likewise the selectors should include Piyush Chawla who with a bit of guidance will makeup the spin squad of Haribhajan,Ojha and Mishra. All that the selectors need to do in batting,is to include Rahul Dravid forthe 50-over ODIs and have Virender Sehwag as a back-up for him. These changes will ensure that India tops both the Test and ODI rankings and win the next World Cup.

  • Anand on November 28, 2009, 0:10 GMT

    Indias middle order has been their strong suit for the last 10 yrs, what is now taking them to the top of the rankings is the emergence of Gambir at the top and Yuvraj + Dhoni in the lower middle order.

    The bowling also seems to have come on significantly. There seems to be a pool of pace bowlers that have stepped up to the plate at various points that has taken India to the next level. Z.Khan has been consistant over a long period, RP Singh in England, Sresanth in SA and now against SL, Ishant Sharma against Australia have all contributed. Add to that list Munaf Patel and the returning Nehra and things look pretty good.

    India have been blessed with quality spin bowlers for as long as I have watched cricket and that looks to be covered for the forseable future with the likes of Ojha/Mishra/H. Singh on the scene.

    Please BCCI dont be greedy with 20 20, now is the time for India to rule the world in Test and ODI cricket!! Get the scheduling right and dont neglect Test Cricket!

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