July 17, 2010

The bat will dominate

For India it will be time to avenge the loss of 2008. For Sri Lanka, a test of how they fare without Murali and other recent retirees

Yes, I know India and Sri Lanka have been playing each other for long, but both could do with some Test cricket. Especially Sri Lanka, who have only three Tests scheduled this year, which is sad. I know India play a lot of cricket and everybody wants to play them, but they too would have been left with only five or so Tests if some games of their ODI series against South Africa and Australia were not converted to Tests, and they didn't have this three-Test series against us.

This current FTP has been a lop-sided one. If you want to have Test championships and want to see where the teams stand, you need to give equal opportunity to all teams. I have played Test cricket for 12 years, but only four Tests in Australia and none at the MCG, the SCG or the WACA. I would love to challenge myself there before I leave the game, but where is the opportunity?

I am not pointing fingers; just that everyone needs to sit down and find a formula for a consistent set-up. Every Test team needs to play a minimum of 10 matches a year - ideally 12. Play all the countries equally, not just one team all the time and the bare minimum against the rest. Given the current state of affairs, we are fortunate to be able to fit in this series.

Sri Lanka will be up for this one after a tough Test series in India, when they got the better of us. The Indian batting line-up is very strong. They are the No. 1 side in the world, and that is motivation enough for us to be at our best and go up the table.

We know, though, that this batting line-up can be kept quiet. We did that two years ago. The way we bowled against them in 2008 is a big positive when compared to the disappointing tour the year after that. Also, at the back of our minds we know we used the umpire review system really well, and Muttiah Muralitharan and Ajantha Mendis had a great series then. There is a huge difference between the Kookaburra and the SG as well.

I have played Test cricket for 12 years, but only four Tests in Australia and none at the MCG, the SCG or the WACA. I would love to challenge myself there before I leave the game, but where is the opportunity?

India won't have to contend with Murali after the first Test. But they will be missing Zaheer Khan. Which is not to say that the series will be dull. Different players will have to step up and perform. Murali and Zaheer may not be there, but we know there are plenty of cricketers trying to prove themselves.

We have improved in our fast-bowling department over the last couple of years. Getting Lasith Malinga back is a positive. Dammika Prasad and Chanaka Welegedara have also come on really well. Angelo Mathews has provided the side with invaluable balance. He gives us more options in our bowling department, especially when you need to pick 20 wickets. Rather than having four out-and-out bowlers, we have a bit of variety.

Over the last three years we have lost three big players: Sanath Jayasuriya, Murali and Chaminda Vaas. While we knew they were going to leave and that would create a big hole in the side, the real test of how well we have coped with the transition will come now.

Left-arm spinner Ranganna Herath bowled well against Pakistan, but bowling against the Indians will be the ultimate test. Not only are they very good players of spin, they have improved a lot since they last came here. Back then, they didn't have MS Dhoni at No. 7 and Gautam Gambhir was not the well-rounded batsman he is today.

Given the slightly weak bowling attacks on both sides, there are chances this series might be dominated by the bat, which has been the general nature of most Sri Lanka-India series. Not long ago, it was always about the batting line-ups, and which of the bowling attacks controlled the batsmen better. You can't say what the pitches are going to offer, but it is essential that they are sporting if we are to have results.

Winning the series in 2008 was tough but winning now will be tougher. On the line will be our proud home record. But when we play Tests in Sri Lanka, we never put ourselves under pressure, saying we have to win. We know how to play good Test cricket at home and we focus on that, and not on who the favourites for the series are.

Former Sri Lanka captain Mahela Jayawardene is the country's leading Test run-scorer

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Pradeep on July 18, 2010, 16:33 GMT

    @ BCCI_Fanatic... what? did Munaf Patel PAY you say stuff like this..BEST bowler of our time?..What happened to the like of Darrel Steyn and Nathan Bracken? and 100 m/h ??..gimme a break. and yeah Harbahjan needs a dust bowl..not Murali..that's how he took all those 300 wickets...nothing even close to the class of the Indian Greats of the the 60's -70's and Kumble ...so prepare dust bowls for the Harbhajan not Murali...

  • Dummy4 on July 18, 2010, 15:57 GMT

    Hiii..Guys...First of all i wld lyk 2 say...India being on No. 1 position has earned it...no 1 has gifted them...N they were above 2 slip down d rankings when they were playing 2nd test match with SA @ home...which rain interrupting d match..or else it wld have been over well before d time...however just 3 or 4 overs to spare harbhajan took d final wicket to win d match...n made sure India remain on No.1...So they have earned it...N dnt forget SA is ranked 2nd...n they r very tough oppenents.... So if any team wants to be No.1..earn it..quite simple !!!

    @ Snowsnake...I totally agree to u with all points..u r absolutely spot on..India is playing in sri-lanka...n they feel they r playing @ home...its just that Aus's dominance is over...infact they r playing poor cricket....n now when India & SA have taken over in test for a while...n ODI's r also not far when India & SA wil take over Aus..So people cant digest this.. Neways it doesnt matter...what matters is that India is @ No.1

  • Dre on July 18, 2010, 15:55 GMT

    @SnowSnake. Also, if your going to go by the player rankings (which is a bit off as well) why not note that Sri Lanka has ONE bowler in the top 20, whilst Aus has FOUR. 4:1 hmmmm. If you take it a little broader, Lanka has 2 batsmen in the top 10 and so do Aus. 3 in the top 20 and gasp, so do Aus. If you factor in the fielding, well then, by no stretch is Sri Lanka a better fielding unit...anywhere. Still I think it will be a bit too risky to go by Player Rankings. The reason why the rankings worked well b-4 was because Aus and W.I. at their times were UNDIPUTED, clear cut, the best by some way. Now there is no clear cut #1 team and careful analysis will show that calculations need to be adjusted.

  • Dre on July 18, 2010, 15:45 GMT

    @SnowSnake. Lol, the ICC player rankings also say Stuart Clark is in the top 10 bowlers in world cricket,he's not going to get a game anytime soon and if your going to go by form, well Sri Lanka's bowling attack is almost non-existent going from their form in the last test series. Sorry I misread your comment a bit, u have Sri Lanka and SA on par...still very wrong. It is true that Aus have been playing weak teams like NZ and W.I. n Pak but Sri Lanka hasn't played NZ n W.I. for a while, so we can't compare the MARGINS of victory vs those teams and when they last played W.I. some time ago they DREW the series and that was when they had Vaas. Ind bowling still only looked avg when they beat a poor NZ batting line up, they went as far as following on vs NZ in 1 match and NO TEAM had followed on vs NZ for yrs. That was also partly because the Ind fielding was poor as ususal..funny how no-1 thinks FIELDING COUNTS in team strength. Ind hav earned their rank fairly but the ranking's a bit off

  • P on July 18, 2010, 13:44 GMT

    @Neutral fan: I never said SA is better than SL. As far as SL vs. Aus. goes. SL is far better team than Australia. Just look at the ICC player ranking their batsmen are ranked 2, & 3. Aus. has been playing weeker teams NZ, Pak. to boost their points. Nothing wrong with that, but I think SL and SA are some of the best test playing teams today. Excellent batting & bowling. India has excellent batting, OK bowling. Aus. batsmen (Ponting & Hussey) appear to be out of form for now. Their bowlers are OK, nothing special. Based on their recent test performance against Pak., Aus. fast bowlers do not appear to have the sting that they used to.

  • P on July 18, 2010, 13:30 GMT

    I think people are speaking from both sides of their mouth. On one had everyone is saying that India plays at home and on the other they are saying Indian fast bowling is bad. The fact is Indian fast bowling will look bad if they play at home. Even the best fast bowlers of the world look tame when they play in India. Indian batting is among the best in the world, spin bowling is also excellent. So, the current ranking shows India in appropriate position (No. 1 by just a few points). It is not like India has a significant lead over other teams. Yes, other teams can be No. 1 without playing India. So, this whole thing of some team becoming no. 1 without playing no. 1 team is irrelevant. India may not be a winning team, but if it does not win then it manages to draw a test almost all the time. India is a hard team to beat, as a result, it will remain among top 3 teams-- sometimes at no. 1 position.

  • natmastak on July 18, 2010, 5:15 GMT

    @raghavendra : U r getting it wrong mate,m not at all saying how IND is good team & how aus is bad. The point i m making is, why the CURRENT ranking system makes IND number 1. We know it is diffi for IND to sustain that with this bowling line up & pakistan very much determined to push aus up the order. @ aditya :thanks & i will like to support ur view abt heydos,coz to me there was no other obvious cricketing reason.& i am/was fan of heydos since he toured IND in 99/00 in that great series.

  • Dre on July 18, 2010, 4:13 GMT

    @Cris_P...SA became #1 after they beat Aus in Aus I think. Aus came back to beat them in SA the following series a few months later.@SnowSnake....by no stretch of the imagination is Sri Lanka better than Aus or SA and without Murali, they will probably be a touch below Eng as well. This just goes to show that the rankings system is a bit skewed. You are right about Ind earning the luxury of sitting back and it IS up to the other teams to take initiative and push them from the rank. Important to note that Ind invited SA in order to strengthen their rank but failed to do so after SA drew against them in Ind for a 2nd consecutive time. So how Ind go about maintaining their rank will be very interesting from now on.

  • Dummy4 on July 18, 2010, 3:29 GMT

    guys the fact remains that india IS number one whether the bowling is good or bad-I mean if Srilanka is such a good side why is it not number one??australian batting is suspect so expect india to retain its number one ranking for a while yet

  • Shanthal on July 18, 2010, 1:32 GMT

    This will be an interesting series and hopefully, SL can put India in there place... which is probably 3 or 4... if you the 3 serious Test powers, India has the weakest bowling line-up. SL has developed a strong all-round attack, England has a spinner of note in Swann, Australia have a good collection of pace-bowlers and a promising Leggy while South Africa boast the best opening pace combination in years! At the end of the year, No. 1 might be decided down in SA (where India tour - if they can hold off SL & AUS) or Aus (if they beat India and England).

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