November 21, 2009

Good on Dravid and Mahela, pity about the pitch

People come hoping to see a result, which is why flat pitches aren't doing Test cricket's cause any good

The first Test ended in a draw, though Sri Lanka dominated the match.

The flatness of the pitch completely neutralised the spinners' efforts in the game. Looking at the way Muralitharan bowled on day five and the amount of turn he got from the pitch, I would not be wrong in saying that one more Test match could probably be played on this wicket. I was a little surprised by the flatness of the pitch on day five. Normally on Indian wickets the red soil provides a lot more bounce and turn to spinners. In an era where there is demand for the shorter versions of the game, administrators will need to look at surfaces and make sure they produce results, because those are what people come to watch, and they are very important for the survival of Test cricket.

Sri Lanka had their chances in the Test, and they did wonderfully well to reduce India to 30-odd for 4 on the first morning; but they allowed them to get to 400. I think Sri Lanka will rue that when they sit down to analyse the Test match.

Breaking the partnership between Dhoni and Dravid at that stage would have put Sri Lanka in a good position. Having said that, all credit should be given to Dhoni and Dravid - not only because they scored runs but for the manner in which they batted under pressure. They looked very positive and that put a lot of pressure on the Sri Lankan bowling as the wicket had dried out by then.

Dravid will be very satisfied with his knock. He is playing top-level cricket after a long time. He has had to bear the brunt of being left out of the one-day side, and he was not in the best of form for about two years before the Test match in Mohali against England last year. But once again he proved that class is permanent, and he will be a relieved man. The selectors must be given credit for rightly showing faith in him. His record as a Test and one-day player is outstanding.

There was a time in Aravinda de Silva's career when he did not look like getting out against India. Mahela Jayawardene probably reminded the Indians of that in this game

Sri Lanka's most important player of the year, Tillakaratne Dilshan, batted beautifully once again. He is a completely changed player now. He always had the talent but what he has done very cleverly is find a way that suits him most in scoring runs, and he has stuck to it. He has started to play the Sehwag way, where offence is the best way of defence, and there will be days when he will be criticised for playing a poor shot at an important stage. I think this is the best of him that we are seeing.

Mahela Jayawardene has continued to enhance his reputation as a Test batsman. He has probably been Sri Lanka's best Test batsman, along with Aravinda de Silva, and he still has some years before he finishes. He looks a calm and composed man on and off the field. There was a time in de Silva's career when he did not look like getting out against India. Mahela probably reminded the Indians of that in this game. In the first half of his career there were questions asked about his performance outside Sri Lanka, but having scored centuries away from home against all countries (except South Africa), he has proved to be a world-class batsman.

Although Sri Lanka had a massive lead of 360 runs, it required a Murali special for them to beat India at home. But I must say Murali looked pretty flat, which is what prompts me to say that they could have had one more Test match on this pitch. It did not spin much, even on the fifth day, and the Indians had to bat very poorly to lose the match - which they did not.

The teams go to Kanpur from here. Hopefully it will be a responsive pitch. Sri Lanka will definitely consider playing Mendis, as the wicket in Kanpur keeps low and he could be useful in those conditions.

Sourav Ganguly led India in 49 Tests between 2000 and 2005, winning 21