Let us praise the selectors too
What promised to be a gripping series between two of the sub-continent's best teams turned out to be a one-sided contest with India proving far superior to the Sri Lankans in all departments of the game, writes Sunil Gavaskar.india Updated: Nov 18, 2005 11:26 IST
What promised to be a gripping series between two of the sub-continent's best teams turned out to be a one-sided contest with India proving far superior to the Sri Lankans in all departments of the game.
Not many could have foretold the change in fortunes of the two teams, for Sri Lanka had beaten India easily when the two last met in the Emerald Isle a few months ago, but form in cricket is pretty fickle.
There will be many theories as to why India played so well -- and some of them may be correct -- but the truth is that, just as India weren't allowed to play well by the Lankans in Sri Lanka, the Indians were far superior on their home patch.
The biggest factor that changed India's confidence level was the return of Sachin Tendulkar. There is a fashion to find fault with our greats, and so there are ignoramuses who ask questions about the little champion, forgetting how invaluable he has been to team morale over the last so many years. He brings positiveness to the team's outlook, not just by the way he plays, but by the way he approaches the game and the way he sets an example for the youngsters to follow.
Just watching him and captain Dravid prepare for a game is inspirational for the newcomers, and it's no secret that in the presence of greatness, others are inspired to raise the level of their game too. Tendulkar came into the series with a question mark over his fitness and he dispelled all doubts in the first game itself, batting in a manner he seemed to have forgotten himself. His rediscovery of the joys of batting, and of dominating the bowling, is the best thing that could have happened to Indian cricket.
Then came Dravid, who produced some of the most sparkling strokes seen from him in recent times. Gone was the hesitancy that characterised his earlier captaincy stints. Now he was looking impossible to stop.
The Sri Lankans have a massive problem if Muralitharan isn't bowling well, for though in Chaminda Vaas they have a high-class bowler, he isn't going to run through a side as Murali can. And on Indian pitches, in ODIs with limited bouncers allowed, he was never going to stop the Indian batsmen. The other Lankan bowlers were simply not up for the contest, with Dilhara Fernando living up to his name -- which means 'lost heart' in Hindi. When it came to the crunch, the Indians knew they could milk runs off him and that's what they did.
The Lankans didn't learn from the Indian new-ball bowlers, who kept the ball up and so got it to swing more. They restricted their length, which not only negated the swing but also gave enough time for the batsmen to choose their shots.
India's fielding was also top class, with the fielders hitting the stumps when it mattered. Their catching saw marked improvement and though there are reports saying that this is the best Indian fielding side ever -- from people who have been watching Indian cricket for a handful of years -- there is plenty of scope for improvement.
The major areas they have to work on are running between the wickets -- still only two runs, instead of three, are being taken when the ball is stopped inches from the ropes. The Indians also need to work on getting the ball quickly back to the wicketkeeper from the deep. One refreshing thing was the absence of a club mentality, wherein some players think they belong to an exclusive "members only" area, and are indispensable. Newcomers have been given chances in the past, but seldom with the assurance that they deserve in donning the India cap. While the team management receives kudos, let's not forget that it was the selection panel that took the decisions; so even as we pat the team for their performances, let's cheer the selectors too.