In a batsman’s Eden, Sreesanth was the proverbial serpent. India’s run-riot had prepared all of us for another long haul by the Sri Lankans. Yet, the visitors lay demolished in both the innings in less than five sessions. They managed just one half-century to India’s three hundreds and two fifties.
It’s not as if the pitch had turned vile in an instant. It’s just that Sreesanth wasn’t prepared to let his return count for nothing. He did quite a few things right. His trademark upright seam position was intact. But he now also bowled full and shaped the ball enough either ways for batsmen to be kept on the back-foot.
Whenever he bowled wide — and he did it on purpose —the batsmen, rooted on their back-foots, went for ill-advised cuts and dabs. You don’t stay on the back-foot and you certainly don’t cut on a low and slow wicket. It’s the surest recipe for disaster and the Lankans had it to the full.
Unfortunately, this approach to batting was taken by the senior-most batsmen of the side. Kumar Sangakkara dragged the ball on to his stumps in both the innings. Indians couldn’t believe their luck. They hardly needed to work up a sweat for this ridiculously easy win.
Sreesanth’s return is good news for India’s ailing fast-bowling resources. One hasn’t seen many exhibitions of better swing bowling displays on a slow wicket. He looked an improved bowler and certainly a better-behaved cricketer. He is now pretty well rounded: he can move the ball either ways, mix up his slower ones with searing deliveries and also reverse swing beautifully.
He always had the skills —he now has shown character too. It isn’t easy for anyone to make a comeback. More so for a fast bowler whose behaviour till recently was a butt of joke in both dressing and drawing rooms.
Pragyan Ojha too looked the part in his debut Test. I for one thought he bowled beautifully and did exactly the job asked of him. His flight and accuracy stood out. With Zaheer Khan returning to the fold and Harbhajan Singh finally beginning to hit the right notes, Indian bowling is acquiring teeth. It wouldn’t be easy for Sri Lanka to find their way back in the series.