India in Sri Lanka 2010 August 8, 2010

Close series between rivals with bare cupboards

It is a credit to both teams that despite the overkill of cricket between the two nations, despite the dead pitch at the SSC, despite the lack of bowling resources, they played out two tense Test matches

This Indian team is pretty adept at digging a hole for itself. It is equally adept and finding a way out of it too. That's why writing this side off is hazardous. Here we are talking about the Test side, not other disciplines. It was an incredible show of character that with their most inexperienced attack since 2000-01, on a ground where Sri Lanka have not lost since 1994, with three first-choice and one second-choice player out, India came back to square this series. India, after losing all the tosses, also ended Sri Lanka's nine-year run of not losing a home Test after winning the toss.

When asked if this was the most special win of his captaincy career, considering the huge effort required, considering that for the first 11 days of the series a Test win looked completely out of reach, MS Dhoni sounded blasé. He had reason to feel so. "It's not the first time I'm the captain and we're one-down and we have to win to level the series," he said. "To pick one of the Test matches among the few I've played or captained is difficult. Every win is special, like the South Africa Test we played in Kolkata or any other."

There is some truth to that. This team has developed a habit of bouncing back immediately after a devastating loss. In 2007-08 South Africa absolutely demolished India in Ahmedabad, only to see them come back in Kanpur. Later that year India bounced back in Galle after a demoralising loss at the SSC. After the infamous SCG defeat, they stunned Australia at the WACA. Earlier this year, they staged a comeback in the Test Dhoni talked about, immediately after Dale Steyn's destruction in Nagpur.

"It shows what this team is all about and what we can do in pressure situations," Gary Kirsten, a man known for doggedness himself, said of the P Sara win. That they keep putting themselves in pressure situations is something India need to address.

For starters, they haven't played a single international game - across formats - with their first-choice XI since Sri Lanka's last tour of India, last November. When they were fighting to justify their No. 1 status, they should ideally have been nursing their niggles, getting ready for a season that will culminate in the World Cup at home. They made a slow start obviously - it took the rookie bowlers three Tests and a helpful pitch to make an impact.

The batsmen failed in Galle, for which they had only one excuse, that of Lasith Malinga's magic, and since then India were fighting a near-impossible fight. Good fortune arrived when Sachin Tendulkar was dropped with India fighting to avoid the follow-on at the SSC, and since then the batting line-up ceased being just Virender Sehwag. Tendulkar, Suresh Raina and VVS Laxman joined in, playing big knocks at crucial times.

That to the Indians this drawn series seemed as good as a win is a tribute to how good Sri Lanka are at home. They know their conditions perfectly, they know exactly how to play in those conditions, and they rarely fail to execute those plans. For the first 11 days, it went almost perfectly according to the script, except for Tendulkar's dropped catch.

Kumar Sangakkara batted beautifully for his century, double-century and fifty in the three Tests, Tharanga Paranavitana promised to solve their opening problem, Mahela Jayawardene contributed even though he didn't look at his flowing best. Thilan Samaraweera wasn't exactly needed in the first two Tests, but when his team needed him in the third Test, he was there.

Malinga and Muttiah Muralitharan made for a heady first Test, a perfect farewell to Murali. The need to preserve Malinga hurt Sri Lanka in the second Test, and even in the third, Sangakkara got him to bowl just six overs on the final day. It would be premature to call it bad captaincy, because perhaps Malinga's body was at the brink again.

It is easy to forget that Sri Lanka were themselves low on resources after Murali's retirement, a fact underlined by the need to risk Malinga's body. Suraj Randiv was a good addition, as he showed with that valiant spell over the last two days at the P Sara Oval, but the bowling cupboard looks slightly bare.

The first Test wasn't gripping throughout, but once India started crumbling, it was always going to be an exciting finish. P Sara Oval was perhaps the perfect Test, except for some tired captaincy at times from both leaders. It is a credit to both teams that despite the overkill of cricket between the two nations, despite the dead pitch at the SSC, despite the lack of bowling resources, they played out two tense Test matches. Now for some break in India-Sri Lanka ties…

Sidharth Monga is a staff writer at Cricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • shrikant on August 11, 2010, 7:12 GMT

    hey who is saying ind can't face the english bowling in england. then iam saying england cant face our spin attack in india .whole world knows the aussies and englisman can't play preparing fast tracks we preparing spinng tracks. cricket is played at diffrent countris diffrent venues. the condiitions are diffrnt. as ind make spining tracks our batsman plays better to spin as compaired to pace attack in auu and england they make fast wickets they can play better to pace as compaired to spin. every one has strong points and weak points no one is complete. and no one can say we are no.1. any team with their better game can beat any side. as bangladesh beat india and australia, england.

  • shrikant on August 11, 2010, 6:48 GMT

    hey don't call murli chuker.he is the gr8 bowler. becoz he has taken 800 wickets. this people are saying thing about murli and tendulkar they both have record holder.diffrent countries people says anything about them bcoz their cricketer have not reach that landmark and then they start comparing. do not compair anybody crickters plas to win matches for their contry. no budy plays for record. wining the mathes are important for them. thats why after 21 years achive so many things in the game tendulkar is playing for only one ultimate goal win the wc2011 for india.

  • ish on August 10, 2010, 18:03 GMT

    Boring Boring Boring......India dont deserve the number 1 spot. How on earth they manage to win games without any world class bowlers amazes me. Bhajji is not world class, sreesnath was exciting to watch insofar as who would slap him first but an Indian beat the rest of the world to it, Khan needs to retire as he is far to old, Anil Kumble and Kapil Dev are the only two world class bowlers the Indians have ever produced in their 60 year cricketing history, but will be forgotten as the rest of the world produces far better bowlers. So no wonder Sanga questions the ICC rankings. In all honesty India will really suffer when the likes of Tendi, Dravid and Laxman retire. I hope they dont but in reality it will happen and in less than a year from today. Please remember this post when they do....

  • sri on August 10, 2010, 11:47 GMT

    @ Paddy Mohan why india cannot be compared to srilanka in odis? Actually isn't it the other way round?just check the stats for ODIS against india at your home series im sure india has better win ratio for the past 5 years. 1996 and 2003? you meant 2007? then remeber 1999 and 2003 world cups?if you talk about sharjah then i can give many examples where india thrashed srilanka 4-1 or 5-1. Calm down mate. Your comments do indicate that srilanaka has also got fanatic fans :)

  • Anoop on August 10, 2010, 6:46 GMT

    It's all in perspective! Had the then rank 5 team Sri Lanka held the rank 1 team India to a one all draw it would have been advatange Sri Lanka (The rank system is definitey Maths as shown by the fact that a 1-1 home series still gained Sri Lanka 4 points and lost India 3). But the moment Sangakkara and Jayawardane opened their mouths and quetioned India's Test rank and said Sri Lanka were better, the whole perspective changed. Now self claimed 'better side' Sri Lanka has failed to win a home series: advantage India. It is the same thing that happened to India when they toured Bangladesh early this year. Everyone expected India to win 2-0. But with Sehwag's comments the whole perspective changed. People expected India to trash Bangladesh like anything: even the initially expected 2-0 win was not saisfactory. Another example is the dropped catch statements made by 'not so logical' Sangakkara. Now people are runnng around to find instances where their players dropped the opposition:Funny

  • Vaibhav on August 10, 2010, 5:06 GMT

    The last test was definitely one of the best tests I have seen in recent past with equations changng in every session. Such matches will defintely increase the popularity of test cricket. No doubt SL has lost edge in it's bowling after Murali's retirement.Mendis is no longer feared by Indian Batsmen. Randiv has gained respect by his performance but still the bowling attack looked pretty ordinary with only Malinga giving threat to Indian batsmen. Indian batting, although quiet strong right now should conctrate in building bench strength as the big three will retire in next 2-3 years. Raina has made a brilliant start to his career but we still need to give more chance to players like rohit sharma and even Viraat kohli. Bowling is one department where a lot is need to be done.No permanent faces in Indian bowling except Bhajji and zaheer. Serious hunt is required for good quality bowlers in test cricket as you need to take 20 wickets to win a test and you cannot depend on pitch always.

  • hayden on August 10, 2010, 4:59 GMT

    @zxaar ponting avg over 100 at headingly before that test innings of 88. batsmen dont alway make their avg score mate! and headingly is a far cry from those colombo test grounds. i think the best series shaping up is at the years end, the best batting line up vs the best bowling line up going around currently and that too in a country that doesnt make feather beds and call them pitches! no not the ashes (i wish aus still had the best of both!) south africa v india from a neutral supporters view is going to make for some good cricket!

  • Steve on August 10, 2010, 1:49 GMT

    @inswing: Aus have been playing without half of their regular side for over 12 months with players like Lee, Haddin, Hauritz, Hilfenhaus, Harris, S Clark out for extended periods. During this period Australia has maintained a reasonable level of performance without being exceptional - ODI series win IN India, home Test series wins against Pakistan and WI, Test series win in NZ. Barring India, I realise that the other nations are not near the top of the tree but you can only play who you are up against and with the players at your disposal.

    India are the no. 1 side at the moment based on rankings but will only remain so until another team rises (SA, I suspect). With some veteran batsmen in the Indian side only having a couple of more years left, it may be up to the selectors to give some of the fringe players more experience in test matches.

  • Mark on August 9, 2010, 22:47 GMT

    @catalyst213 the aussies were bowled out for 88 by Pakistan. We (Eng) haven't played the Aussies in a test in a while (wish we had bowled em out for 88 though!).

  • arjun on August 9, 2010, 22:44 GMT

    @priyantha123 "I totally disagree with the comments of Koushik_Biswas. Due to illogical arithmetic of the ICC, India had become the no. 01 test team. Can the current Indian team face the pace attack of England in England and score more than 88 which Pakistan did? I doubt." -------------------- do you better arithmetics than what ICC has. Is your arithmetics some how superior??? India is no. 1 because they have won matches is time span decided by ICC. Noone cares if you have problems with it. Other than that about your comment indians not scoring 88 in England. Tendulkar averages 62 there. So guess rest of them can add another 27 runs. :-D

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