For a nation that heaps expectations on its cricketers, India's dominance over England at Colombo was hugely satisfying, to say the least. Coming after the equally exciting win at Lord's in the final of the NatWest Trophy, this game just goes to prove that India are now a daunting one-day outfit, and if anything will instill fear into the hearts of their opponents, it is the batting that Sourav Ganguly and Virender Sehwag showed off on Sunday evening.
Ganguly, in my opinion, has started enjoying his cricket more of late, but Sunday must have provided more than the usual share of enjoyment and entertainment as he sat gleefully at the other end while Sehwag went berserk. A smiling, encouraging captain is always a big asset, especially to the younger players, for he takes the pressure off by a few opportune words.
Once Ganguly and Sehwag had added 192 runs for the first wicket in double-quick time, the match was virtually in the bag. Sehwag was the first to be dismissed, but not before he had sealed a knock that is best described as inspirational. His daredevil style of hitting through the line and on the rise -and his astounding talent at succeeding - is quite, quite remarkable.
England's bowlers, especially Andy Caddick, were perhaps guilty of trying to bowl too fast at Sehwag, for the increased pace only made the youngster's job easier, enabling him to use the pace to his own advantage. On a belter of a track like the Premadasa, there is little point in just trundling up and down, and more variations must be tried to throttle the batsmen.
Sehwag in particular has a tendency to play a few loose shots early in his innings, and England's bowlers failed woefully to capitalise on that. With the line and length they were bowling, they only had a chance to get Sehwag if they obtained some movement off the track. But as I said, given the pitch conditions, that was not likely to happen.
Nasser Hussain could really not have anticipated such an onslaught, and in fact he would have been quite happy once his batsmen had put 269 on the board. Given India's early breakthroughs, it was quite a feat by England to reach that competitive total. Ashish Nehra and Zaheer Khan bowled brilliant first spells, and the early exit of Marcus Trescothick - always a pivotal man for England - must have given the Indians a huge boost.
Hussain got out to a really atrocious stroke, and his batting made the Indian quicks look twice as fast as they really were. That shot was not at all warranted in the situation, and if this is how England is going to play in Australia, I am not sure they will be able to make too many dents on the opposition. But I did like the attitude and approach of young Ian Blackwell, refreshingly different and positive as compared to his experienced colleagues.
I must say, though, that India's main spinners were a huge disappointment. Both Anil Kumble and Harbhajan Singh are experienced enough at the international level, and there is little excuse for not being on top of their game, especially on subcontinental tracks that always hold promise for spinners. I have always emphasised the importance of turning and flighting the ball, and neither Kumble nor Harbhajan managed to do enough of that on the day.
On current form, the South Africans will surely find the Indian batting too hot to handle. With Sehwag and Ganguly striking top form, there isn't much any bowling attack can do, and the only thing India must guard against is complacency - a quality that seems to creep in often, especially after a hugely one-sided game.