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Focus back on Indians

Somewhere in the bottom of their hearts, India skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni and coach Gary Kirsten would have thanked Pragyan Ojha on their journey from Galle to Colombo on Thursday. Amol Karhadkar reports.

cricket Updated: Jul 24, 2010 00:17 IST
Amol Karhadkar

Somewhere in the bottom of their hearts, India skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni and coach Gary Kirsten would have thanked Pragyan Ojha on their journey from Galle to Colombo on Thursday.

Not for his mediocre left-arm spin bowling but for becoming Muttiah Muralitharan's 800th Test victim. The historic moment took the focus away from India's dismal show in the first Test against Sri Lanka, which the hosts comfortably won by 10 wickets.

India's overall performance was so pathetic that the Test, despite losing close to four sessions due to rain, finished 21 minutes after tea on the last day. While the bowlers failed to break partnerships, batsmen fell short of coming up with sizeable stands in both of India's innings with the bat.

No doubt there were patches of brilliance in the first innings. Like Virender Sehwag's brisk century and Dhoni's short stand with Yuvraj Singh for the sixth wicket; and Sachin Tendulkar and Rahul Dravid's partnership on the fourth evening followed by VVS Laxman's heartening performance with the tail on the last morning. But none of these efforts lasted as long as they should have for India to earn a draw.

Dhoni admitted that the lack of partnerships was one of the main reasons for his team's downfall. "Whenever we had some kind of a partnership going, the Sri Lankan bowlers came up with a beautiful delivery to get the batsman out," conceded Dhoni after the defeat in Galle. "Be it the first innings or the second innings, we were not really able to get any partnership going. Some of the deliveries they bowled were really difficult to keep out." While the Sri Lankan bowlers, led by Lasith Malinga and Muttiah Muralitharan did exactly what was expected of them, the less said about their Indian counterparts the better.

While Abhimanyu Mithun had a decent Test debut, Ishant Sharma was clueless about what he was doing for most of his spells. As for spinners, the risk to field a half-fit Harbhajan Singh, recovering from a flu, backfired and Ojha didn't succeed in doing anything worth note.

But Dhoni, who suffered only his second defeat in 14 Tests as captain, still backed his bowlers. "Overall I am quite happy with the performance of the bowlers. Of course we could have got more wickets, it could have been better, but they batted really well. They kept the good deliveries out," said Dhoni.

"We were, to some extent, unlucky, because quite a few edges didn't carry to slip fielders. If you see the boundary percentage, there were quite a few scored between the keeper and the point fielder. It is important to have luck on your side, which never was on ours in this game."

With the next two Tests slated to be played at the Sinhalese Sports Club and P Sara Oval, respectively - both venues that have seen tons of runs from Sri Lanka's middle order- winning a series in Sri Lanka for the first time in 17 years may just remain a dream for captain cool.