‘Do we have a plan, or are we going to play Fetch?’
While India is taking on Sri Lanka in yet another meaningless ODI series, this time in Lanka, they are discovering the new concept of ‘official net practice’.
The stands they’re playing to consist of an average of 500 people, which is still lesser than the amount of Rohit Sharma fans (not for long) in this country. As keenly followed as this is by the BCCI, who’re wondering which of the young crop of players they should use, one feels for the commentators and journalists present at the venues. What can you write about that hasn’t already been written about these two mid-table teams, finalists of last year’s World Cup, facing eachother in a best-of-5 series?
MS Dhoni must be wondering if they’re Germany to Lanka’s Greece, with this labeled sort of a ‘bailout’ series for the bankrupt Lankan board. If that’s true, there really can’t be any sort of grudge between players from two teams that have spent more time with eachother than their own families over the last few years. One can almost imagine Kohli smirking at Sangakkara after arriving from the airport, gesturing to him discreetly that they will continue that game of Checkers they started a few months ago.
IN any case, cricket is being played. Atleast that is what our TV screens seem to be demonstrating to us. If cynics keep wondering how long Test Cricket will last in this day and age, they must question the merits of ODI cricket when two Asian giants continuously battle it out on the dustbowls of India and Sri Lanka. Especially when they’re no clear favorites. And not many care, except for the friends and families of the players in the series. Much like Ranji trophy cricket in India.
All in a day’s work
The first ODI at Hambantota saw Virat Kohli raise the bar yet again. An IPL-induced international break made no difference to his pre-IPL limited-overs form, where he had already scored 3 centuries and a fifty in his last 4 ODIs (Australia and Asia Cup cricket).
He went on to score yet another century, his 12th already, at age 23. To put things into context, Sangakkara, who is more than 10 years his senior, scored his 15th ODI century in the same game. Sangakkara, who has hit a purple patch off late, scored hid century in a losing cause though, as Sri Lanka fell 20-odd runs short of India’s mammoth score of 313. Kohli must have felt nice to know that his century wasn’t in a losing cause yet again, after his last 2 centuries (probably two of the best in Indian ODI cricket) came in a series-eliminating cause.
That the Indian bowling was led by Irfan Pathan, who wasn’t an original selection for the squad, must have been heartening for selectors. His miserly spell of 2-38 in 10 overs, as compared to young gun Umesh’s 2-75 in 10, demonstrated the important of experience over outright pace in such batting-friendly conditions.
A 1-0 lead, leading into a sub-continental season that lasts till the end of 2013, was the start many expected, and were relieved to have. After a disastrous last year, Indian fans might be satisfied with anything, and it doesn’t matter where the wins happen, or against whom. They aren’t in a situation where they can pick and choose the bigger of their victories, for there are such few.
The career stayed low
The second ODI was a massive indicator of what went wrong in Indian cricket for the last 14 months. The same batting lineup that scored 313 was bowled out for a meager 138 in 33 overs. There is no explanation for this, especially after Sri Lanka chased down the score in 19 overs, with 9 wickets to spare. It can’t be the pitch, as Dhoni claims it was, and his strategy of batting first in order to use bowler-friendly conditions under lights backfired tremendously, because the game was over before the lights came on.
Kohli was due to fail, after a world record amount of runs in his last 5 ODI matches- and Gambhir could have become only the third Indian ever to bat through an innings while his team fell around him. But he didn’t, as he was the last wicket to fall- and India did themselves no favours by giving up before the first ball was bowled.
A worrying concern that the selectors might take from both these games- is Rohit Sharma’s form. 5 and 0 aren’t scores of India’s future test number 5, and he is yet again falling into that dark, dreary, all-consuming hole of no return that he fell victim to before the World Cup. Calls for his head, only months after these same critics called for Kohli’s head before Perth in favour of him, are almost being justified because of his sense of application at the crease. Unlike Kohli, his IPL form is no indication whatsoever of his international form, and he could only be given so many chances before Sachin and Yuvraj return to the scheme of things.
The combined failure of the entire batting line-up is a familiar sight, and is a unwelcome throw back to the 90s- where most Indian teams went all-or-nothing without experience (Sachin, Dravid or Ganguly) at the crease.
With 3 days to go for the next ODI, India is the team that has a lot more soul-searching to do, because Sri Lanka are doing their basics right, and haven’t really performed badly after coming off a winning 1-0 series against Pakistan.