Sri Lanka Board President's XI v Indians, Colombo July 13, 2010

Indian spinners targeted and dominated

The match is not being televised, but Harbhajan Singh will know how desperately he is needed when he is told of how ineffective the bowling was

Indian batsmen have acquired a bit of a habit of going after visiting spinners in the side games. The Australians go after visiting captains, but the Indians - and often it's the unheralded batsmen - unsettle the spinners. In 1997-98 Amit Pagnis welcomed Shane Warne with a 60-ball 50, in 2008-09 Rohit Sharma and Virat Kohli hit Jason Krejza out of the starting XI for three Tests, in 2009-10 Manish Pandey and Abhishek Nayar dismantled Paul Harris. Some of their own medicine was administered to them on the first day of this tour of Sri Lanka.

Upul Tharanga nearly scored a century in the first session, three of the top four batsmen went past 100, and 432 runs came in the day, only 11 fewer than what India managed at the Brabourne Stadium when Virender Sehwag played the innings of the last year. At least two members of this attack, possibly three, and if Harbhajan Singh doesn't recover from his fever, maybe even all four, will be playing in the first Test. The No. 1 Test side in the world needs better. There is serious cause for concern, and India know it.

It was just a tour game, but also a proper first-class game, not the kind where 11 field and everyone bats, which has become more of the norm nowadays. That there would be no favours was clear when Thilan Samaraweera chose to bat. This was not going to be some gentle batting practice.

Soon Tharanga was driving the first ball of the day for four, soon the spinners were being hit around in their first overs, the no-balls came in abundance, maiden overs were almost non-existent, boundaries were hit almost at will, and wickets were more thrown away than they were earned. Only four maidens (two of them when batsmen slowed down approaching stumps), 22 no-balls (11 from Amit Mishra), and 264 runs in boundaries.

The pitch was slow, but it offered turn. Mishra started with a long hop and kept giving at least one short delivery in almost every over. This was in addition to his no-ball habit. There was no control whatsoever, and had Mishra not bowled towards the end of the day, when the lower-middle order had slowed down, he would have come back with an economy-rate of more than six. Ojha was a bit better, a bit more accurate, a bit more testing, but nowhere near threatening. Of course there was a definite plan to unsettle India's spinners, of course their stock ball was always turning in towards their left-hand tormentors, but neither of them was convincing in his response.

The match is not being televised, but Harbhajan will know how desperately he is needed when the team reaches the hotel and he is told of the happenings of the day.

Ishant Sharma, who has the responsibility of leading the pace department, was the only one who could walk away with some credit. He did bowl seven no-balls, but he also beat the batsmen, both for pace and for movement. He had Tharanga missed in his third over -that wasn't the only edge he induced - and his pace didn't fall much in later spells either. He got a deserved pat on the back from bowling coach, Eric Simmons.

Abhimanyu Mithun, who, after one superb domestic season, faces the prospect of taking the new ball in the first Test, was steady rather than threatening. There was an odd edge created too, but there never was a concentrated spell during which Mithun made it seem like a wicket might be around the corner.

As far as poor first days of tours go, this one was as bad for India as their one-day defeat to Rest of South Africa and the 213 for 8 in Chittagong. When they walked off the field, the Indians didn't carry faces of grim, desperate concern, but ones indicating that knew they were in for a tough one here in Sri Lanka. What they won't give for an inspired spell of bowling, the kind Sreesanth produced in Kanpur.

Sidharth Monga is a staff writer at Cricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Ashok on July 16, 2010, 16:26 GMT

    The Indian Selectors chose a reasonable bowling with Zaheer, Sreesanth & Ishant to lead the pace attack.But the first 2 were injured and the replacement bowlers, Mithun & Patel are poor choice. Nehra should have been the ideal replacement for Zaheer. Why was he not included? India A team in England had better performance from the young fast bowler Unadkat. He is included as the net bowler along with Jadev and both should be considered. Patel's selection is mind boggling.He is both out of form/practice and is totally out of shape Even at his peak he was a poor fielder. Irfan Pathan is a much better choice.So India should consider Ishant & Unadkat orJadev to open with Patel third pace man. Mithun never looked like a wicket taker in the last game- so he should be excluded. Harbhajan can provide the spin backed up by Yuvraj, Sehwag and Raina.That is the best India can do with the existing weak bowlingsquad. Ojha can only come in place of VVS. Indian batting has to come big to win.

  • Dummy4 on July 16, 2010, 14:34 GMT

    Will Indians be able to take 20 wickets with the pace attack that we have now..... India is the No:1 test team in the world but still find difficult to replace players wen injured.. Does the board does well to keep the bench strength. Why does the young pace bowlers failing to impress at the international stage.. What happened to Irfan pathan and Balaji..... why BCCI is not including bowling coach like Donald, Mc Grath in Ranji domestic season why deos karthik been rested and saha given chance who failed to impress. Many questions to be asked.... So... All.... lets welcome the new season of India with busy schedules... ahead... Lets wait and see the Test Series... concluding between India and Srilanka. Lots of excitement , entertainment blended season ahead......

  • Srinivas on July 15, 2010, 4:07 GMT

    So much for the argument lads!!! The truth is that SL batsmen suck when they go aborad. Indian batsmen have proved their worth in gold, no matter where they went. If you don't have bowlers with dubilous actions, you can't get 20 wkts in a test. Plain and simple.

    The golden rule is, "Win toss, bat first". Then the SL batsmen can go for a world record like they did with 900+ score. India playing SL has become so common, that no body cares who is going to win (i.e. it will be a HUGE surprise, if somebody wins). So, why waste your emotions on another meaningless series, which was probably organized as a favor to SL board by BCCI anyway.

  • Dummy4 on July 14, 2010, 11:26 GMT

    So much for the sorry excuses, lads. The "dead batting track" was not dead enough for India's batsmen. And I thought you lot have sorted out Mendis?

  • Jacinth on July 14, 2010, 11:08 GMT

    Tour match and test match are very different and i always believe that it is better to perform badly in a tour match than in a test match and it is also a wake up call to the Indian team. I hope India will come up with a far far better performance in the first test match.

  • Samar on July 14, 2010, 9:49 GMT

    This is specialty of the Indians...Tours without any match practice and then progress day by day which is a clear indication of no match practice... i do not understand what the Indian international think and do not play much of first class cricket.. Yuvi is playing first class cricket since 1996 and had only played 89 matches b4 this one...this shows their interest in playing domestic matches where they are not payed heavily(around $500 per first class match ??)... wake up folks respect the game money will come automatically....greed does no good... i believe there are other ppl who deserves to be in the longer version of game than YUVI.... 33 test are enough to prove your self... is really enough...

  • ks on July 14, 2010, 9:14 GMT

    This will be drawn series no doubt about it. sachin,dravid ,laxman are coming into the team after 4 months it will take some practice to get match fit.

  • nishantha on July 14, 2010, 9:01 GMT

    I saw a comment here from a person calling himself JOJI ? - more Rip van Winkle if u ask me . He says Sri Lanka are renowned for preparing dead tracks and drawn matches are the norm . Nothing could be further from the truth - as a follower of the game and SL cricket , I can safely say with some authority that drawn matches in SL have been few and far between in the last 15 years . Joji must have just woken up from a deep sleep which happened in the 80's when almost all test matches played in India were drab draws !

  • Bilal on July 14, 2010, 7:59 GMT

    wouldnt it be refreshing if Dhoni goes out swinging by selecting 5 bowlers in the first match and show SL that i want 20 wickets ... but I know this will not happen and the matches will be boring

  • Jairam on July 14, 2010, 7:04 GMT

    It looks like Sri Lanka could well break some batting records, most of them set by themselves. they hold the record for the highest innings score in a Test ( against India, who else ??) and they also hold 4 of the first 6 wicket batting partnership records. Don't cry for me, Indian bowlers

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