After an unexpected and bitterly disappointing end to the Test series for Sri Lanka the focus must quickly turn to the two Twenty20 Internationals this week in Nagpur and Mohali. That is the nature of international cricket these days. After a defeat you need to quickly regroup for the next challenge and it’s not easy.
A lot of pressure will sit on the shoulders of Kumar Sangakkara and it was great to finally see him with a smile on his face on Sunday night at the BCCI’s Annual Awards for 2009. All the Sri Lankan players were there, smartly decked out in their blue casuals, as Indian cricket heroes of the past and present were honoured.
Sanga, a keen student of the game’s history, was quickly sought out by Dilip Doshi, one of India’s great spinners, a left-armer with beautiful flight. The jovial Doshi survived Sanga’s traditional meat-cleaver handshake (probably the firmest handshake in the modern game) and soon charmed the Sri Lanka captain back into good spirits, leaving him with a big smile on his face.
You need some good humour after such a dispiriting result. Whatever happens on the field you need to maintain perspective and Sanga knows that more than anyone. He’s fortunate to have Murali as his chief lieutenant because as well as being the highest wicket-taker in the game’s history, Murali is also one of the game’s great chatterboxes.
After the BCCI Awards there was a Reliance-organised celebration for Sachin Tendulkar’s 20 years in international cricket. Sanath Jayasuriya, Sri Lanka’s very own two-decade legend was on show, having arrived with the one-day specialists earlier in the week.
On Monday morning, it was time to bid farewell to loved ones with some of the players’ wives returning home to Colombo after a short stay in Mumbai. The two teams packed up once more and hit the road, this time flying just a short distance to Nagpur, the venue for the opening T20 and clearly one of India’s fast growing cities.
Nagpur has a reputation on the cricket circuit for dodgy hotels and being a bowlers’ graveyard: we lost both our ODIs when we played here at the old ground in 1999 (by 80 runs) and 2005 (by 152 runs). It was not a great feeling being put to the sword by India’s batsmen and I then managed on 11 and zero in reply. Hopefully, it will be third time lucky and Sri Lanka and will leave with happier memories. The hotels have obviously improved judging by my plush Sun-n-Sand hotel. The big question is whether the pitch will produce the expected run fest.