Tests: India 0 Sri Lanka 0, ODIs: India 1 Sri Lanka 1

The Sri Lankans in India, 1997-98

Craig Cozier

As in their series in Sri Lanka in August, when batting records tumbled, both teams displayed a lack of penetrative bowling. There was further heavy scoring, and three drawn Tests. India held the whip hand throughout the series, and the Sri Lankans were content to leave with a 0-0 scoreline. Their three previous tours of India had resulted in six innings defeats in seven Tests, so to escape without a defeat was an achievement in itself. India's batsmen seized the initiative in all three matches, scoring first-innings totals of 515, 485 and 512. But their bowlers could not dismiss Sri Lanka twice, although they came in Mohali and Mumbai, and rain robbed them of the opportunity in Nagpur.

Only fast bowler Javagal Srinath, returning after nine months' rehabilitation from a shoulder injury, advertised himself as world-class. Leg-spinner Anil Kumble, reinstated after being rested from the recent one-day tournaments against Pakistan, was never at his best, and off-spinner Rajesh Chauhan was also inconsistent.

The Sri Lankan bowling was even more threadbare. Playing catch-up on many occasions, they often resorted to the negative tactic of pitching in the rough outside leg stump to stem the flow for runs. "We do not have much choice so far as bowling is concerned," said captain Arjuna Ranatunga after the First Test. "We have to make the best use of the available talent. In the circumstances, my bowlers bowled exceedingly well to curb the Indian run-rate."

Left-arm pacer Chaminda Vaas, expected to be Sri Lanka's spearhead, struggled for form, as he had done since a back injury ruled him out of the Caribbean tour earlier in the year. Ravindra Pushpakumara, omitted from the First Test, made the most of his opportunities in the final two matches with aggressive pace, accuracy and swing. Muttiah Muralitharan's off-spin was quickly countered by Navjot Sidhu and company, and Sanath Jayasuriya, more renowned for his boisterous batting, proved the most penetrative of the spinners.

Sourav Ganguly, the Indian left-hander, was the undoubted star with the bat, a notable achievement in a series featuring Jayasuriya, Aravinda de Silva, Sachin Tendulkar and Mohammad Azharuddin. Ganguly continued the rich vein of form which had begun in the second Colombo Test, with 392 runs in four innings, including two centuries and a 99. Rahul Dravid was also impressive, although he was unable to convert any of his three innings over 80 into a second Test hundred. Tendulkar, his captaincy under growing pressure, answered with a quality century in front of his adoring home fans in Mumbai's Wankhede Stadium in the final Test. But his failure to win any of his 12 Tests in 1997 was ultimately to lead to his sacking. Sidhu appeared to have claimed his rightful position as India's premier opening batsman 14 years after his Test debut: he scored his third century of the year among 288 runs at 72.

Sri Lanka's leading batsman again was Aravinda de Silva, whose superb unbeaten century - his seventh in as many Tests - stood between India and victory in Mohali. Marvan Atapattu, whose biography was for so long tarnished by five ducks in his first six Test innings, laid that embarrassment firmly behind him with a maiden century and a stylish 98. A technically correct right-hander with a wide range of strokes, Atapattu complemented the left-handed Jayasuriya at the top of the order, even if Jayasuriya, predictably, could not recapture his golden touch of the preceding series in Colombo.

After a fortnight's break, during which India travelled to Sharjah to take part in the Champions Trophy, the teams reassembled for a three-match one-day series. Even here, the stalemate could not be broken; they won a match apiece, with the middle one controversially called off after three overs because of a dangerous pitch.

Match reports for

1st Test: India v Sri Lanka at Mohali, Nov 19-23, 1997
Report | Scorecard

2nd Test: India v Sri Lanka at Nagpur, Nov 26-30, 1997
Report | Scorecard

3rd Test: India v Sri Lanka at Mumbai, Dec 3-7, 1997
Report | Scorecard

1st ODI: India v Sri Lanka at Guwahati, Dec 22, 1997
Report | Scorecard

2nd ODI: India v Sri Lanka at Indore, Dec 25, 1997
Report | Scorecard

3rd ODI: India v Sri Lanka at Margao, Dec 28, 1997
Report | Scorecard

© John Wisden & Co