Sri Lanka have slipped to a new level of incompetence and India are on the rise. For me, the disturbing signals are from seniors who have to provide leadership to a touring party. Sanath Jayasuriya, Marvan Atapattu, Chaminda Vaas and Muttiah Muralitharan are our favourite sons. A few failures can't revise their reputations. They now have to dig their heels deep to ensure the team is not redefined if another week, god forbids, of similar intensity is going to rock our boat.
A few things have been beyond control. Jayasuriya might be a little out of touch but his injury hasn't allowed him to be his ebullient self. He alone can answer the charge that he is a bit slow or if his reflexes and eyesight are not how they used to be. Murali has been confronted by a high quality batsman in Sachin Tendulkar after a long time and if there are only hundred-odd runs to defend, it restricts even his options. Mahela Jayawardene then has to attend his wedding and I don't blame him either for it was arranged before the present schedule was announced.
I am concerned about the collective batting failure. It is the batsmen who win you games in our subcontinent conditions. I also don't approve of Kumara Sangakkara opening the batting. The opening combination was duly tinkered with but Sangakkara isn't the man for the job. When everyone is gripped with the virus of failure, you don't put all your worries at the doorstep of your best man. Every individual has to pull his own weight. Upul Tharanga needs to be brought out of the closet as an opener.
I also wouldn't accept the pitch being held up as a reason for our batting mishaps. The one at Mohali was perfect, backed with a lightning quick outfield. I certainly didn't see it as one where the ball was holding up. Even at Nagpur, one has to revisit the match again to see if spinners really had that huge assistance in the second half of the day. I mean, when the spinning duo of Harbhajan Singh and Virender Sehwag took successive wickets, it was only in the 10th and 11th overs of the innings and the ball was still new!
It is easy to over-react to such terrible reverses and I hope such a thing is not happening behind the closed doors of the dressing room. There is nothing wrong with the quality of these batsmen. Most who go out of form suffer because they start believing their best has deserted them. Being uptight will never be a solution, it actually adds to the problem. Sometimes being relaxed is the best option. The best process is to attend to the basics - watch the ball closely as it leaves the bowler's hands and trust your ability which has brought you thus far. If it is a technical issue, help is available from the support staff.
The best man to convey the message is the captain. Actually, Atapattu could cite from his own experience. When he began his career in India, years ago, he was a doddering wreck where even scoring the first run was a matter of celebration. Amid cries for his head, we believed in his ability but more importantly, he believed in himself. He soon turned the corner and a string of centuries and double centuries flowed. That message still has relevance. I have a massive regard for his ability and intelligence. We in Sri Lanka are actually in the process of appointing him as long-term captain, till the 2007 World Cup.
It's a complete contrast with the Indians. Their batsmen are raking up massive totals and their bowlers are dismissing the opponents for less than 200. I am sure Sachin Tendulkar and Irfan Pathan have much to do with this revival as their efforts in the first two games show.
Pathan deserves a closer look as a world class allrounder in the making. Even though he, and his captain Rahul Dravid, wouldn't like this extra weight of expectations to be placed on his shoulders, it is an inescapable offshoot of good performances.
As for Tendulkar, he has lifted modern-day mediocrity with his sublime genius. Men like him inspire a generation of youngsters to pick up the game and create a different level of creativity. Ask yourself how many times you have replayed those pick-up shots over the infield in your mind and swooned over it. We are suffused in his genius and watching an immortal in action. Enjoy it for such men grace the game once in a generation!