Has our cricket hit rock bottom or was India too strong? | Daily News

Has our cricket hit rock bottom or was India too strong?

A dejected Sri Lanka team after their 3-0 whitewash against India at home. Pix AFP
A dejected Sri Lanka team after their 3-0 whitewash against India at home. Pix AFP

[Review of Test series]

The recently concluded three-Test series between India and Sri Lanka left two things in mind – was India too strong for Sri Lanka or has Sri Lanka’s cricket at international hit rock bottom?

India no doubt came to Sri Lanka as the number one ranked Test side and at the end of the three matches proved what a worthy crown they wore by making a clean sweep of the series 3-0. Last year Australia also came to Sri Lanka ranked as the number one Test team but ended up losing the series 0-3.

There were 10 players who figured in the Australian series that appeared for Sri Lanka against India - the only exceptions were Kaushal Silva, Kusal Perera and Suranga Lakmal.

The difference between the two series was that the Australian batsmen were humbled by spinners Rangana Herath (28) and Dilruwan Perera (15) who between them took 43 wickets whereas in the series against India who had far superior batsmen who play spin exceptionally well, the effect of Herath (5) and Perera (2) was nullified to the extent that they ended up taking a mere seven wickets between them.

Australian didn’t have a great spin attack like the Indians had and the Lankan batsmen were able to put sufficient runs on the board to give their bowlers a chance to bowl the other side out twice. In the series against India playing the Indian spinners Ravindra Jadeja and Ravichandran Ashwin proved quite a different proposition for the Lankan batsmen. This was high quality spin bowling and they were found wanting at every turn. The departure of Mahela Jayawardene and Kumar Sangakkara from the international circuit has exposed the frailties of the Lankan batsmen against top quality spinners. These shortcomings in the batting ranks were concealed as long as these two legendary cricketers were playing, but now that they are no longer there, the team is struggling to come to terms with spin.

The Lankan batsmen didn’t handle the right-arm leg-spin of Yasir Shah well and he bowled Pakistan to a 2-1 series victory in Sri Lanka two years ago with a haul of 24 wickets. Sri Lanka also struggled in the one-off Test against the right-arm leg-spin of Zimbabwe captain Graeme Cremer who took a match bag of nine wickets. In the recently concluded series Jadeja (13) and Ashwin (17) were the stand out bowlers for India in their win over Sri Lanka with 30 wickets between them. In the circumstances when Sri Lanka prepared tracks to suit spin for the series against India they were only digging their own grave because their batsmen were not competent enough to handle the Indian spinners whereas the Indian batsmen looked more at home against the Lankan spinners with five of them scoring hundreds in the series.

The Indian spinners backed up by two skilled new ball bowlers Mohammad Shami and Umesh Yadav who could also reverse swing with effect gave the Lankan batsmen no chance whatsoever to dominate in the series and they simply folded up tamely without a fight making it a wholly one-sided affair.

The only time Sri Lanka had looked like putting pressure on India was during the second innings of the SSC Test when Dimuth Karunaratne and Kusal Mendis scored centuries apiece and shared a partnership of 191. That performance only seemed to be a flash in the pan when at Pallekele the Lankan batting folded up meekly for 135 and 181 to lose inside three days.

What the Indian series proved was that Sri Lanka are nowhere close to the side they were at one time and gave other Test nations a run for their money. They have simply fallen by the wayside and need to pick up the pieces and work their way up the ladder if they want to regain their lost pride.

How long it will take for them to come out of this rut only time will tell. There are no quick fixes for such a state of affairs but a wholehearted effort from everyone starting from the players to the support staff and those who administer the game.

As the country’s Test captain Dinesh Chandimal pointed out lack of consistency was a key factor to the defeats and the mounting injuries to key players didn’t also help.

For the Indian series Sri Lanka was without batsmen Kusal Perera and Asela Gunaratne and bowlers Suranga Lakmal, Nuwan Pradeep and Rangana Herath (for the final Test).

This is the second 3-0 whitewash Sri Lanka has suffered in the last seven months. They were beaten in South Africa as well in January by the same margin.

Sri Lanka’s selection policies were also difficult to understand at times. Why they picked a third spinner for the Pallekele Test defies logic. Dilruwan Perera who shared the brunt of the spin attack with Herath in the first two Tests was made to look a mere spectator when he was given to bowl only eight of India’s 122.3 overs in their only innings. Sri Lanka’s failures have been in their batting and playing an extra batsman instead of an additional spinner could have been helpful.

The thinking for playing that extra bowler was to strengthen the bowling which had been hit for 600 runs plus in the first two Tests. The ploy worked to some extent because Sri Lanka managed to keep India under 500 at Pallekele but at great expense because with only six front line batters they collapsed for totals of 135 and 181.

The injury (broken finger) to Gunaratne who was turning out to be a utility player for the team in all formats in the opening Test of the series at Galle was a big loss from which Sri Lanka could not recover.

They struggled to fit in a suitable replacement for that crucial no. 7 spot that Gunaratne occupied trying out Dhananjaya de Silva at the SSC and Dilruwan Perera at Pallekele without any success. Apart from his durable batting Gunaratne was also a useful partnership breaker with his nippy off-cutters.

It is still early days but Chandimal didn’t convince everyone with his captaincy especially with his field settings at Pallekele where he seemed lost when India’s no. 8 Hartik Pandya was tearing the bowling to pieces with his astonishing century that shifted the balance in the Test after Sri Lanka had kept them down to 339-7. India eventually ended up scoring 487 – a total good enough for them to win in three days.

 


 

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