Waking up to the sound of rain drops drumming on the window, it was a familiar feeling if you were Indian and following the team in this Commonwealth Bank tri-series. Bad weather followed them to the capital of Australia defying forecasts and it wasn’t clear until well into the day that a match would actually take place.
When it was announced that the game was on, about 6000 present at the Manuka Oval greeted the news with a din that was there throughout the day. The most boisterous crowd seen in this competition so far comprised mostly of Sri Lankans. Clad in bright blue, they created a mood of carnival in the stands beating drums, blowing trumpets and singing all the way. In the end, the Indians danced to their tune, the result would say.
Not much should be read into India’s first defeat of the event however. It’s always tougher batting first in a truncated match and although they put up a decent score, the target for Sri Lanka after another delay caused by rain was far from intimidating in the days of Twenty20. Despite the setback, India are still set to occupy the second position after Round 2, if Friday’s Australia-Sri Lanka match in Perth produces a result.
Even in defeat, there were encouraging signs for India, the brightest being the innings of Rohit Sharma. It was surprising to see him walk in at No. 4 ahead of Yuvraj Singh. Mahendra Singh Dhoni said later it was because the team wanted a left-right combination. Whatever be the logic, Rohit got most things right. It wasn’t the prettiest of starts, but he finished with a flourish that left some promise.
The youngster again seemed to have a lot of time to play his shots. Of the ones he played on Tuesday, an inside out lift over extra-cover off Lasith Malinga stood out as did the late, fine and delicate glide towards third-man next ball. He improvised towards the end as well and the sweeps off the quicker bowlers were audacious. If he keeps his feet on the ground, India can expect a lot of classy runs from him in the future.
The other plus for India was also in batting. For the first time in this competition, Dhoni’s team came up with a concerted effort. Sachin Tendulkar provided the start with some sublime stroke-play off the pads and after him, Gautam Gambhir and the skipper made useful contributions. India got three substantial partnerships – between Tendulkar and Sehwag, Gambhir and Rohit followed by the one between Rohit and Dhoni.
Given that batting was India’s weak link heading into the tri-series and also in the first three matches, this outing should leave them in a better frame of mind ahead of the more crucial games. True, the pitch was fine but the batsmen still had to apply themselves and they showed good composure in the middle overs before scoring at a good pace.
Despite that, 154 in 21 overs was never going to be too steep a target for Sri Lanka. Their task was made easier by Sanath Jayasuriya who got after Sreesanth and sealed the fate of the match as early as in the third over. When he fell in the fourth, his team had 45 and it was just a question of sensible batting and staying there, than being adventurous.
Tillekaratne Dilshan made sure there was no drop in the scoring rate with a fluent as well as attacking knock of 62 not out.
India might think there is something from this game that they can carry forward. Results are obviously most important, but this game and particularly a long competition like this is not all about them. After the debacle in the second Test, India had started getting their act together from the practice game here. Exactly a month after that, they can leave Canberra with the same feeling.