For the second time the Sri Lankans came to the rescue when Pakistan cancelled their visit to India amid fears about security. The fact that they were soundly beaten in all three Tests, each time by an innings and inside four days, was somehow insignificant compared to the need to keep up these exchange tours in the Asian subcontinent.
The only real controversy, as in India's visit to Sri Lanka a few months earlier, was provoked by the umpiring. Sri Lankan manager Bandula Warnapura claimed the batting failures of the first two Tests owed as much to his players' nerves, waiting for the next bad decision, as to bad shots. But after the Third Test, in which the umpires avoided giving anyone lbw unless he was playing right back, captain Arjuna Ranatunga agreed that Sri Lanka had been beaten fair and square. The Sri Lankans were not the first side to disparage home umpiring, and probably not the last, even though these were the last Tests played with two local umpires rather than one local and one overseas umpire from the ICC's panel.
The series was played on the turning pitches - some might say doctored - on which India had built up an amazing record. Not even an Asian side, accustomed to such conditions, could resist the Indian Juggernaut, running on the wheels of wristy batsmanship and spiteful spin bowling. An eighth straight home win since the defeat of Sri Lanka in 1990-91, a second successive whitewash after beating England 3-0 in 1992-93, and only the second series in history in which a team won all three Tests by an innings (following England v West Indies in 1928), all pointed to India's apparent invincibility at home under Mohammad Azharuddin. Contrary to old theories that Indian Tests mean dull draws, this series meant that the last 12 matches, from Madras in 1987-88, had produced a win - 11 of them for India. Azharuddin joined Mansur Ali Khan (the Nawab of Pataudi, junior) and Sunil Gavaskar, India's most successful captains, with nine wins each. He was also the leading batsman in the series, with two centuries: his 152 in Ahmedabad was scored on a pitch so bad-tempered that only two other players reached 50.
The series attracted a fair audience - at least when India were batting. The one-day internationals, which India won 2-1, were unremarkable, but pulled huge crowds, defying the official capacity of the stadiums which staged them. The Indians were rewarded for such popularity, too; thanks to team sponsorship, their pay multiplied several-fold and was buttressed by performance bonuses.
Further cause for celebration came from the indefatigable all-rounder, Kapil Dev. He became Test cricket's highest wicket-taker on passing Sir Richard Hadlee's mark of 431, which had stood for three and half years. Although he took 130 Tests, 44 more than Hadlee, Kapil played 65 of them at home, where he often had to grind it out on pitches far from helpful to seam bowling. With Anil Kumble, despite injuries to his bowling arm and fingers, ripping the Sri Lankan batting apart in the opening Test, there was little work for Kapil. It was on the firmer pitch in Bangalore that he picked up five wickets to close the gap, and the record - No. 432 - came in Ahmedabad, when Hashan Tillekeratne was caught at forward short leg. By then the tourists almost automatically displayed surprise at any decision. But umpire Narasimhan was delighted; thanks to Tillekeratne's refusal to walk, he had a chance to make history in his maiden Test.
The umpiring may have been unkind to the visitors in the First Test, where debutant umpire Sharma gave three of the top order out to questionable decisions. But that hastened defeat rather than caused it. The Sri Lankans were never able to control the flow of runs, allowing India to build up winning totals with plenty of time to bowl the opposition out. Ranatunga's only gambit was to ask slow left-armer Don Anurasiri to bowl to a negative line far beyond leg stump, with seven men on the on side. The Indian batsmen were wristily dismissive of such tactics and their spinners, Kumble, Venkatapathy Raju and Rajesh Chauhan, bowled far more positively in beguiling the Sri Lankans, while Manoj Prabhakar and Kapil used the new ball craftily.
Ironically, the Sri Lankans, who used to complain of their lack of international cricket, were jaded by a crowded programme. From August 1992, when Test cricket resumed on the island after five years, to December 1993, they played 13 Tests and 29 one-day internationals. On the third afternoon of the First Test they were 120 without loss, a strong position. They betrayed themselves with two ill-advised sweep shots, the first by Roshan Mahanama, their outstanding batsman of the tour. The woeful form of two other senior players, Ranatunga and his deputy Aravinda de Silva, was hardly likely to inspire confidence in the younger players. Of the main bowlers, only off-spinner Muttiah Muralitharan who took 12 wickets, averaged less than 70. Asked when he expected his team to win a Test abroad, Ranatunga flippantly replied when neutral umpires stand. But it was arguable which was more debilitating, Indian umpiring or Sri Lanka's suicidal batting.
A. Ranatunga (Sinhalese SC) (captain), P. A. De Silva (Nondescripts CC) (vice-captain), S. D. Anurasiri (Panadura SC), M. S. Atapattu (Sinhalese SC), P. B. Dassanayake (Board Under-23 XI), U. N. K. Fernando (Sinhalese SC), A. A. W. Gunawardene (Sinhalese SC), S. T. Jayasuriya (Colombo CC), R. S. Kalpage (Nondescripts CC), K. K. Liyanage (Colts CC), R. S. Mahanama (Colombo CC), M. Muralitharan (Tamil Union), K. R. Pushpakumara (Singha SC), D. P. Samaraweera (Colts CC), H. P. Tillekeratne (Nondescripts CC), G. P. Wickremasinghe (Sinhalese SC).
W. P. U. J. C. Vaas (Colts) replaced the injured Liyanage.
Manager: B. Warnapura. Coach: A. Polonowitta.
Test Matches - Played 3: Lost 3.
First-class matches - Played 5: Lost 3, drawn 2.
Losses - India (3).
Draws - Indian Board President's XI, Punjab.
One-day internationals - Played 3: Won 1, Lost 2.
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