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Bowlers played a pivotal role

india Updated: Aug 31, 2008 00:04 IST
Ravi Shastri
Ravi Shastri
Hindustan Times
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It didn't end the way all Indian supporters wanted, but there is no denying India played better as a team in the ODI series. They put more runs on the board and bowled better. Sri Lanka's best - be it Jayasuriya, Jayawardene and Sangakkara in batting or Vaas, Murali and Mendis in bowling - didn't click together when it mattered. It cost them a proud record at home.

The Indian report card sees most in good light. A few were exceptional but a majority were more than adequate. A winning team always needs six or seven good performers and India nearly always had their men for the job.

Bowlers rarely get the same space as batsmen in newsprint or on prime time but this time they did. I can't recall when each one, in isolation or as a group, was so telling. Zaheer, Praveen, Munaf or Harbhajan and Pragyan Ojha earned everyone's respect. It isn't easy to bowl in hot and draining conditions yet the bowlers retained the spring in their feet. The new ball was rarely wasted in the first 20 overs and Sri Lanka were always four or five wickets down by this stage. To my mind, it had a critical impact on the outcome.

India were no better than Sri Lanka while squaring up to new ball but the script, thereafter, was better. One has to give credit to Dhoni and Raina who took the venom out of the Mendis-Murali duo. Badrinath could have learnt a lot from this trip and Virat Kohli would be wiser with this experience. That nobody from either side could get to 200 runs in the series tells you conditions were not all for batting.

For the future of Indian cricket, it's important that the likes of Yuvraj and Rohit Sharma are not discarded in a hurry. Yuvraj is having a bad time but the experience of his kind is worth in gold. Rohit has only one 50 to show from his last 14 innings but he is a talent who needs to be persisted with. I still believe his best will be seen when he goes higher up the order.

Gambhir too shouldn't be discounted because he did well in Australia, in the IPL and in the Test series that preceded the ODIs. Everyday is not a sunny day and light and shade are as much part of life as they are on a cricket field. Good players must be allowed occasional failures as long as their work ethics and spirit is intact. The Indian board should be lauded for resisting the urge to go for a quickly arranged series in absence of the Champions Trophy. There is busy schedule ahead for the Indians and these free days can allow weary minds and limbs to recover poise.