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The Great Indian fall

We lost badly as Sri Lankan batsmen made big hundreds and the best batting side in the world crumbled on a wicket that was friendly, flat and paata, writes Amrit Mathur. Spl: Mission Sri Lanka

india Updated: Jul 30, 2008 10:04 IST

The collapse in Colombo is not just a serious statement about the Indian team but also Test cricket. We lost badly as Sri Lankan batsmen made big hundreds and the best batting side in the world crumbled on a wicket that was friendly, flat and paata.

Such disgraceful defeats are not new to India, so why is this loss suddenly being seen as a major no ball, a foot fault, a self-goal?

To understand this, let's rewind a little and look closely at the story so far. When IPL exploded in cricket as new firecracker -noisy and spectacular - concerns were expressed about the longer forms of cricket. Experts, astonished and saddened by the runaway success of this shiny new product, predicted a quick end to Test cricket.

They offered perfectly valid reasons for the anticipated demise. India, it was pointed out, is on the move, driven by a vibrant youngistan, which demands action. And then, in today's action-packed contemporary society, people want results. Cricket, after an even contest between bat and ball, must find a victor who is applauded and a vanquished who is rubbished. Judged on these parameters, Test cricket is a failure, while T20s rock.

Still, there was a tiny minority that stubbornly defended the longest version of the game. These supporters claimed that the 5-day, 30- hour, 90 overs a day contest was the real thing, the true and ultimate examination of players. Test cricket is classy, permanent and invaluable; 20-20 is a passing hawa, the difference between the two the same as between linen and polyester or leather and plastic.

MS Dhoni knocked this theory down by giving Tests a miss, instead deciding that only one-dayers worked for him, and maybe this is a sentiment others will share in the future. Seen in this perspective, India's massive loss in Colombo is a huge setback. If Test cricket is indeed the real thing then are we pretenders?

How did the famed Indian line up, richly talented and vastly experienced, succumb twice on a wicket that did nothing?

How is Murali is a mystery even after 15 years of cricket where every ball bowled by him is video analysed? And then, the most disturbing question: Why couldn't Kumble and Harbhajan make any impact whatsoever?

The Test, in a twisted way, also says a lot about Sri Lankan cricket. Their team is on a roll, having recently won the Asia Cup, but public response to them is thanda. Amazingly, Sri Lankan cricket is practically broke, the Board is looking for loans and advances to tide over its financial troubles.

But even in these stressful times, there is interesting off-field drama unfolding. The Sports Minister vetoed the appointment of Hashan Tilekratne as the Sri Lanka team manager, recommended by the cricket authorities, and named someone else!