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Sunday, Dec 08, 2019

Tests flunked, time for the marks

By any estimate, the Indian team had a disappointing time in the Tests. The report card makes for dismal reading, barring a few bright spots, Anand Vasu writes. Spl: Mission Sri Lanka.

cricket Updated: Aug 13, 2008 12:32 IST
Anand Vasu
Anand Vasu
Hindustan Times

By any estimate, the Indian team had a disappointing time in the Tests. While 2-1 is not a drubbing, as the Indian team fought back strongly through the opening batsmen and Ishant Sharma at Galle, giving themselves a chance to poach a rare series win in Sri Lanka in the final Test. In each innings they could have pressed forward, and each time they failed. Not surprisingly, the report card makes for dismal reading, barring a few bright spots.

Virender Sehwag 7/10

At the top in the batting order and in our ratings, Sehwag accounted for nearly 50% of all Indian runs scored in the Galle Test. It’s disconcerting to think that his place in the team was in jeopardy not long ago and yet he was one of only two batsmen who emerged from this series with reputations enhanced.

Gautam Gambhir 6/10

Gambhir’s precision of footwork, prudence of shot selection and placement of strokes against spinners who bamboozled the best in the team gave off a sense of authority that was sorely lacking in the batting line-up. Add this to a genuine tightening-up of technique against the fast bowlers, and you had an opener playing perfect foil to Sehwag while scoring quickly himself.

Ishant Sharma 6/10

Following up a phenomenal series of spells in Australia, where pitches assist quick bowling, Ishant bent his back and extracted disconcerting bounce and enough lateral movement on Sri Lanka’s placid surfaces. His ability to sustain intensity over extended periods and the uncanny knack of knocking over the best batsmen in the opposition make him India’s No. 1 pace option. That he gritted it out with the bat came as a pleasant surprise.

Zaheer Khan 5.5/10

Even without getting the ball to swing — hot, humid conditions put paid to thoughts of that — Zaheer fell back on experience and guile to bowl with genuine control and vigour. The tendency to occasionally spray the ball in an early spell was kept under check and Sri Lanka’s predominantly left-handed batting line-up was asked a variety of questions from different angles. Add to this some sensible and vital tail-end resistance and you have a man who gave it his all.

VVS Laxman 5/10

Perhaps the only one of the Fab Four to come to grips with playing Sri Lanka’s spinners early enough for it to make a difference, Laxman found ways to score runs even as others fought for survival. His final innings of the series, on one good leg, even though in vain, showed that he still has much to offer. Safe as anything in the slips, he provided an extra dimension here and went past 100 catches.

Harbhajan Singh 5/10

After all that has happened off the field with the tempestuous offspinner over the last few months there was some doubt about what frame of mind Harbhajan would be in when the real cricket came along. He responded strongly, bowling well through the three Tests, whether it was in a defensive role or in the search for wickets.

Anil Kumble 4/10

You can’t fault Kumble for effort, at any time in his career, but the bite that has made him a feared bowler was missing in this series. He was not helped by catches being dropped off his bowling and often is a different bowler when early wickets elude him. By his own admission he has had an indifferent series and what will rankle the most is his inability to run through even the tail, something he did, almost eyes closed, in years past.

Rahul Dravid 4/10

It was definitely a case of too little, too late in Dravid’s case but somewhere in the middle of the second Test he began to climb out of the shell that he has been ensconced in since he gave up the captaincy. Ajantha Mendis did not help matters, but by the final Test Dravid was batting with something approaching fluency and calm. A couple of close decisions went against him, but that’s part of cricket and he will know he should have done better.

Parthiv Patel 4/10

Making a comeback after four years and 43 Tests, Patel was competent behind the stumps and you can’t pin him down for failing with the bat in one Test. His glovework has certainly improved since the last time he played for India and it would be safe to say that he has gone past Dinesh Karthik in the pecking order when India needs a replacement, or back-up, for MS Dhoni in the future.

Sachin Tendulkar 2.5/10

The big disappointment from the series, Tendulkar failed to conjure up a single substantial score. With Lara’s record within grasp, he disappointed in six consecutive innings, first finding odd ways to be dismissed, then falling twice to Chaminda Vaas over shots he could have avoided and finally making two errors of judgment in the final Test. You expect much, much more from a modern master.

Sourav Ganguly 2.5/10

For someone who uses his feet better than most against the spinners, Ganguly was tied to the crease more than one could fathom and the only solace he can draw is that Mendis never dismissed him. This is somewhat countered by the fact that he fell to Muralitharan on five of six occasions. His bowling was barely a factor and his batting contribution negligible.

Dinesh Karthik 1/10

If one person would have been better off not coming on this tour it was Karthik. With a golden opportunity to establish himself as Dhoni’s understudy, he fluffed his lines both behind the stumps and in front. His wicketkeeping was below his own usually high standards, with repeated dropped chances. Any ambition to salvage pride with the bat was banished as an inability to decide when to attack or how or if, cost him his wicket at crucial moments.

Did not play: Rohit Sharma, RP Singh, Munaf Patel, Pragyan Ojha