Sri Lanka in India 2005-06 November 5, 2005

India is raising the bar in every game

Arjuna Ranatunga
In my times, Aravinda de Silva was keen to open the innings in one-day cricket. His reasons were plain: open spaces in the field offer maximum returns on a shot. It broadens your appeal which, in turn, tilts the scale of commerce

Mahendra Singh Dhoni's versatility and resolve highlights a resurgent India © Getty Images
In my times, Aravinda de Silva was keen to open the innings in one-day cricket. His reasons were plain: open spaces in the field offer maximum returns on a shot. It broadens your appeal which, in turn, tilts the scale of commerce. I resisted, and prevailed, in keeping him at the number 3 or 4 slot. For that's the place for your best man.

Sri Lanka on this tour are preferring to send Kumar Sangakkara as an opener. The success of Jaipur was a shot in the arm to this theory. But here he was sacrificed. You don't risk your best batsman in the only spell when the bowlers are in business. For that matter, even Sachin Tendulkar is best advised to bat at one or two down. How many times do you see an opener strut out his stuff in tailor-made conditions of the subcontinent only to withdraw to the middle order in alien conditions? Sangakkara was all the more invaluable since Mahela Jayawardene was missing.

Sanath Jayasuriya failed for the fourth time and I have noticed he is beginning to play away from his body. The old failing has resurfaced which we tried so hard to curb in our times and succeeded since Jayasuriya himself was hell-bent on coming good. But I suspect he is trying too hard. Jayasuriya is conscious of the four low scores and wants to bat for long. But that's not him. He can't be a Marvan Atapattu -- he needs to enjoy himself and launch himself at deliveries with gay abandon. He shouldn't look to occupy the crease.

My complaint is that Sri Lanka has not tried to come out of a straitjacket approach. They have been left reacting to India's tactics which was different for the fourth time in four games. When they had planned for Mahendra Singh Dhoni at number three, the wicketkeeper was back to his usual slot. Who would dare to shift a batsman who has just scaled an unbeaten 183 in a chasing spree? They did the same with Irfan Pathan. It almost appears as a prompt to others to do the same. India is raising the bar in every game and interestingly, everyone is trying to live up to the challenge. That's creativity for you. What it has done is to completely flatten the Lankans.

It's not one or two but all eleven who are emerging from unsuspecting quarters and soon are all over them. Lanka's resources are stretched in combating this multi-faceted enemy where the next man is as dangerous as the previous one. Funnily, they are not even coming in a order! The expression is best understood when you look at the visitors. Indians are secure in the knowledge that a Jayasuriya or Atapattu, a Sangakkara or Jayawardene are the batting lynchpins. They are not suspecting attack from the rear. They close in quickly once these men leave the crease.As for themselves, India suffer from no such imbalance. Just look at how many youngsters -- Dhoni, Raina, Rao and Pathan -- have mattered in this 4-0 lead.

Dhoni illustrates this resurgent India best. It was easy for him to get ensnared in his own image for an entire nation is swooning over him. But he didn't fall into the trap. For opposition, such versatility is scary. In less than two days, Dhoni has moved ahead from Jaipur. Lesser mortals don't manage it in a lifetime. I detect a similar mental strength in Virender Sehwag. He made a critical difference with his bowling in the death overs. If as a part-time bowler he could summon such resolve it was because he knew how to absorb pressure. In cricket, as in life, those are the best that soak pressure like a sponge.

Even if Sri Lanka manages some crumbs of consolation in the next three games, we would sit and look at every issue minutely once the tour ends. It could have been the travel; an irritant in stay, food or even a wrong person in the dressing room. It may or may not be an issue but we need to give it a thorough run-over. We are conscious that a poor travellers' bogey has raised its head again. Not that I believe it to be true as I admire this team greatly for its talent and spunk. We are not going to panic or discard them in a hurry. Unfortunately, we lost our footing because nobody had seen the gale which India unleashed on us.

When we dissect our debacle, we would not lose sight of the fact that India has by far been the better team.