Uthappa played some breathtaking shots but he'll learn that cameos alone don't cut it at this level
The crowd throwing water sachets in unison at the denouement of this match
summed the manner in which Sri Lanka were swept away by a tidal wave of
Indian shot-making. Once Robin Uthappa unveiled an eye-catching array of
strokes against hopelessly wayward new-ball bowlers, the result of this
game was seldom in doubt. Both Lasith Malinga and Dilhara Fernando were
clocking in excess of 90 miles an hour, yet the line and length were so awry that
they might as well have been throwing pies. By the time Uthappa departed
after another rush of blood to the head, the asking rate was down to five
an over, a cakewalk on a pitch as good as this.
What followed helped ease some of India's main worries ahead of the flight
to the Caribbean. Virender Sehwag's wretched form and Yuvraj Singh's
failure to play an innings of substance on returning from injury were both
concerns ahead of this game, but both men capitalised on the frenetic
start that Uthappa provided. Sehwag's dopey dismissal took the sheen off
his 46, but Yuvraj and the new-look Sourav Ganguly creamed the bowling so
effortlessly that Sri Lanka weren't even allowed to entertain the slimmest
hope of victory.
What Uthappa didn't do was play the sort of innings that would have
created a tremendous selection headache. As at Chennai against West
Indies, he had the bowlers at his mercy, only for impetuosity to override
common sense. The hook for six off Malinga was breathtaking, as were a
couple of carves over cover, but he'll learn that cameos alone don't
cut it at this level.
Ganguly's innings after initially going off with cramp was just as
sensational. On the days when he's on his A game, no one plays the
spinners with such withering contempt, and the gorgeous sixes off Malinga
Bandara and Sanath Jayasuriya epitomised the confidence of a man who knows
that he'll have a vital role to play in the islands that Christopher
Columbus discovered half a millennia ago.
The same goes for Yuvraj, without whom India appeared a second-rate outfit
in South Africa. When he bats as he did for much of the 2005-06 season,
the middle order looks formidable, and he cashed in superbly on a
surface where runs were available on a platter. A couple of the drives
down the ground were simply stunning, but the stroke of the day was
perhaps the glorious cover-drive off Fernando that fetched him a first 50
since Port-of-Spain last summer.
Chamara Silva's maiden ODI century was the only substantial score in the Sri Lankan innings
The Indian run-fest merely served to illustrate just how poorly Sri
Lanka's top order batted. The Indian bowlers were nowhere near as good as
they had been at Goa, but with the notable exception of Chamara Silva, the batsmen
were in self-destruct mode. Mahela Jayawardene's horrendous hoick summed
up the top-order woes in this series, and it was only in the final 10
overs that Sri Lanka exploited the helpful conditions.
Silva, playing only his 14th match more than seven years after debuting as
a 19-year-old, showed all the composure and class that was in evidence
during the Test at the Basin Reserve a couple of months ago. Then, he had
shredded New Zealand to the tune of 61 and 152 in a famous Sri Lankan
victory, but with none of his compatriots going beyond 28 in
Visakhapatnam, his splendid 107 was doomed to be in a lost cause.
If there was a touch of grey to India's final silver lining before the
World Cup, it came in the shape of a slipshod death-overs display. Two
catches went down in Sreesanth's final over, and 91 came from the final 10
when almost every attempted yorker became a full toss to be clattered to
Harbhajan Singh too had a lousy outing, bowling an awful leg-stump line
that did nothing but feed the sweep and the heaves through the leg side.
But Ganguly was tidy, and with Munaf Patel and Sachin Tendulkar
certainties in the XI, it was hard to see where exactly Irfan Pathan would
fit in once he recovered from injury. But after the droughts in the
Caribbean, Malaysia and South Africa, Indian cricket certainly won't
complain about problems of plenty.
Dileep Premachandran is features editor of Cricinfo