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Well done but don't relax now

Mahendra Singh Dhoni?s booming hits and skipper Rahul Dravid?s calm, serene, and solid batting was a mix that the Sri Lankans could not fathom, writes Sunil Gavaskar.

india Updated: Nov 13, 2005 03:26 IST

India overwhelmed Sri Lanka in the final one-dayer to wrap up the series 6-1. Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s booming hits and skipper Rahul Dravid’s calm, serene, and solid batting was a mix that the Sri Lankans could not fathom. They may have fancied their chances after the early loss of Mohd Kaif, but the Dravid-Dhoni partnership ensured that India romped home with plenty of deliveries to spare.

Sri Lanka simply have not been up to it in this series and their selection committee back home did not help matters by announcing the Test squad with one match still left to play. The one-day series may well have been decided, but if Lanka had got a win in the last game, it would have given them a great boost for the Test series starting in December. Why the selection committee could not wait for two more days before announcing their side is a mystery.

With Jayasuriya, Chandana, Zoysa being dropped from the Test squad and Mahela Jayawardene stripped of the vice-captaincy, the Sri Lankan dressing room must have been a sorry place for the last game. Not that it has been any great shakes in the series, but such announcements do not help matters at all. You could see that there was little heart in the Sri Lankan effort when they were batting and it took Marvan Atapattu, the skipper, to ensure that they got to a reasonable total. Russel Arnold, another one who has missed out on the Test series, showed greater gumption, perhaps to prove the selectors wrong, and showed a gutsy approach. It was his partnership with the skipper that steadied the Lankan boat.

The Indian opening bowlers strangled the Sri Lankan batting. Samaraweera, who replaced Jayasuriya in the playing eleven, did little better. During the Super Series, Muttiah Muralitharan had revealed he had a bet with Samaraweera that if he got selected for the one-day squad, he would run naked round the stadium. Whether the off-spinner stayed true to his word or once again got away with a wily excuse is not known. His absence from the attack also made a big difference for Sri Lanka’s chances, as could be seen by the turn that both Harbhajan and Murali Kartik got from the pitch.

Once again, the Indian fielding was top-class, though Kaif did drop a sitter, which probably needs to be video-recorded, because it is such a rare occurrence. Pathan, Agarkar and RP Singh showed the virtues of keeping the ball up and getting it to swing. Sangakkara, who has been Sri Lanka’s best batsman, was once again undone in trying to play the hook shot.

Sehwag once again flattered to deceive and he needs to really work and convert those thirties into three-figure innings. Maybe losing a little bit of flesh around the midriff will help in getting the body to pivot, as also make him lighter on his feet. Tendulkar, after a painful blow, batted more carefully and Pathan, who was promoted to number three, showed once again that he could be a handy batsman. India’s win was never in doubt for Sri Lanka didn’t have the attack to contain the strong Indian batting, neither did they possess the confidence to do so. Their fielding also needs to lift itself by several notches if they are going to be competitive in the Test series.

The Indians have only three days before they take on South Africa in a five-match series, and while the visitors will be a different kind of fish, the confidence level that the Indians have at the moment will stand them in good stead against a team that is mentally stronger than the Lankans, and has come to India after completing a 4-0 rout of New Zealand in the one-day series at home. Well done India, but please don’t relax.

PMG

First Published: Nov 13, 2005 03:26 IST