Posted by: rajeshkannan | February 10, 2009

Sri Lanka v India ODI Series Review

Winners Are GrinnersYuvraj, Dhoni, Raina and Pathan versus Mahela, Kandamby, Kapugedera and Maharoof – this was the story of the series. India’s middle order boasted two of the best one-day batsmen in the world, one rapidly improving livewire, and a devastating late overs biffer; Sri Lanka could only counter with their woefully out-of-form captain, two newcomers and one bowling all rounder. This was a no contest from the get go, and India’s middle order effectively eclipsed Sri Lanka’s to spell the difference between the two sides.

India review: Dhoni’s juggernaut rolls on

It seems Dhoni’s superstardom has bewitched coins as well – four tosses won, and not once did India bat under the lights in the world’s most toss-dependent cricketing conditions. This was outrageously good fortune, and his team capitalised on it with a vengeance.

In Sehwag and Gambhir, India have possibly the two best players of spin in the world – the former uses his extraordinary eye to pick Mendis off the hand or off the pitch, and the latter uses the crease on both axes to get to the pitch of the delivery. These are mighty effective methods, and went a long way towards blunting Sri Lanka’s spin attack.

For my money, the biggest positive from this series for India has to be the way Yuvraj handled spin. He’s seemed befuddled in the past, prodding cluelessly or failing to get his bat down in time (his monstrous backswing ensures that), but he’s evidently learnt well from Tendulkar. He was patient, and though he still can’t read Mendis off the hand, he’s stayed back in his crease and played the ball off the pitch. Whether this works in Test cricket is a whole other matter, but these are promising signs. After the disappointments of the Australian tour, Yuvraj has shown commendable maturity to bounce back, be more patient, and hone his craft – maybe we will get to see him display that outrageous talent on a more consistent basis in all forms of the game.

This may have been a series won by the middle order, but India’s bowlers were mighty impressive as well, especially Pragyan Ojha and Praveen Kumar. Ojha is a purist’s delight, and he bowled with intelligence and pluck, especially in the third ODI – he was the standout bowler of the series.

And Praveen Kumar’s unthreatening pace conceals a mastery of swing. Fluid mechanics says 120-130k is the ideal speed to make the cricket ball swing, and Praveen is certainly proving this. He burst on to the scene in the CB series last year, and Zaheer Khan and Ishant are ideal foils in India’s superbly versatile three-pronged attack in ODIs.

Medium and fast bowlers seem to be a dime a dozen in India these days, and I’m afraid this may push Irfan Pathan out for the foreseeable future. He was woeful in the 4th ODI, and the contrast with Zaheer’s controlled line in the earlier games was palpable. Just five years ago, he was one half of India’s exciting new ball partnership (Balaji being the other) – while his partner is slowly returning to the fold, Pathan faces a spell in the wilderness.

Sri Lanka review: The bad, and that’s mostly it

In 1996, Jayasuriya and Kalu could hit with impunity, knowing that Aravinda, Ranatunga and Tillekaratne were to follow – Jayasuriya remains, and I wonder how much he expended from his fountain of youth in this series.

For such a class act, Jayawardene remains a curious anomaly in the 50-overs game – he has never averaged more than 34 at any point in his career, and this is not just Atapattu-esque penance for youthful miscues; he’s averaged 32 over the last 7 years. He is the weak link in this Lankan middle order, but he is bullet-proof – who are they going to replace him with? Chamara Silva looked promising a couple of years ago, but he’s disappeared, and Kandamby is the lone spark of hope in the middle order.

Sri Lanka have worries in the bowling department as well. Chaminda Vaas is gone, and Lasith Malinga is still recuperating. In the meantime, they have Kulasekara and Thushara, two honest trundlers, and one very wayward Fernando. Malinga’s return to action in the T20 international assumes great significance, for he is necessary if the islanders are to take the next step.

Incidentally, I hear Kulasekara is the no. 2 bowler on the ICC rankings. Are these guys for real? He’s not even the no. 2 bowler in his team.

Murali, of late, has become a bit toothless, and I wonder if it is a sign of age, or the dead nature of the pitches he has been operating on. His tortuous climb to the 503 wicket mark reminded me of Kapil Dev’s similar ascent to 432, and no one will be gladder than Murali that he can now focus on his job properly without distraction.

Much has been made of Ajantha Mendis’ ineffectiveness, but I wouldn’t be too worried if I were him. He ran into some extraordinary players of spin, and this is the limited overs game after all. In Test matches, with a close ring and no run rate pressures, he’ll be a different animal, and I’m not convinced anyone can read him off the hand with any conviction. Till that time, Mendis will continue to hold sway.

Overall, this was a dispiriting experience for Sri Lanka. They were unlucky with the toss, and the fact that India didn’t once bat under the lights was a huge factor as well, but 4-1 is a rout nonetheless. Only one of the four defeats was close, and they’ll need to plug the holes in their middle order and fast bowling in order to compete seriously with the big boys.


  1. Your initial statement threw me through a loop since I did not comprehend the ‘versus’ comparison, especially since Sanga was left out. Glad to see Raina’s name mentioned in the mix. His is an incredible story as he could have been another Kaif but he bounced back last year with intent. Hopefully Pathan’s performance in the 4th ODI was a one off (he seemed to have gotten the hang of it in the 5th and bowled less erratically). Balaji should stay with the team but a good problem to have to choose between him, Munaf, RP, etc.
    Srilankans just remind me of Indian team of late 90’s. Depend too much on Sanath and an occasional contribution from a middle order batsman. They are not the underdogs that bite anymore. Mendis did play against a good spin-playing team but his attack lacked creativity and just summed up well by Indian batsmen “we played him like he was a pace bowler”. He is not done like you said but he certainly lacks a degree of humility that Murali has and that will get him through these tough outings.

  2. I was just commenting on the comparison between nos 4 to 7. The top 3 are roughly equal, maybe India is slightly better. But there is no contest thereafter.

    Yea, they’ve reminded me of mid-90s India for a while now – great at home and pretty awful abroad. And not too great at home in ODIs either. India won a couple of tournaments (Hero, Titan) but that was a result of coming good in the final after execrable performances beforehand.

    I’m pissed off about Kaif not being in the mix for the test or ODI sides. He is a tremendous athlete, and he has significantly improved his technique (if not his constipated stance!) – saw him in a couple of domestic games, and he seems much better. Same goes for Badri. But anyway, that’s a discussion for another day.

    Pathan, I’m afraid, has been ruined by Chappell. In his quest to become Kapil Dev, he’s ended up being mediocre in both aspects. It’s a long road ahead for him, as I can think of at least 6 medium pacers ahead of him in the ODI or test queue (Z,I,RP,Munaf,Praveen,Sreesanth,Balaji – did I miss out any?). I like the look of Ashoke Dinda as well, and Dhawal Kulkarni has impressed for Mumbai.

  3. Gony? Haven’t heard of him after last year’s IPL..

    Irfan Pathan – Send him to English county cricket for a season..that should sort him out.If he still doesn’t get his mojo more sad case of talent gone waste.

    Btw, lot of people have blamed Guru Greg for Pathan’s decline..but I wonder how a bowler can just lose his art and skills because he wants to do well as a guess is that Irfan’s background and the sudden stardom has spoilt him a bit, and he did not put in the hard yards when reqd. Some thing similar happened to Yuvi, but he has bounced back, hasn’t he?

    And just last year, Pathan bowled beautifully in the T20 in SA.He can do it..just needs to stay away from the partying, commercials and stuff and focus on getting his act back..and I wonder what Venatesh Prasad has to say about this.

    Sri Lanka – they seemed short on confidence.Strange, considering they were playing at home.But they are probably the best behaved international side.I hope they bounce back soon.

    RK, the umpiring in the series has been sub-standard to put it mildly.

    In fact, there seems to be a certain fall in umpiring standards these days.

    May be they(ICC) should look at widening the pool.Toots would make a great umpire :-)

    I wonder how much they pay umpires..I don’t mind chucking my job and preparing for the qualification tests.Best place in the stadium, eh !

  4. Poor series from the Lankans, but India on a roll and with the best of conditions is a formidable foe!

    Interesting about 120-130kmh being ideal for swing. That suggests that Vaas would have been effective, but it suggests the same for Matthew Hoggard and he barely played an ODI. Perhaps swing bowlers, like spinners are best in their mid-30s, but few get a chance to prove it.

  5. Kumar – Irfan to county cricket is a good call, He won’t get much coaching, but he’ll bowl plenty to some old pros and, if he listens, he’ll learn a lot in the dressing rooms and travelling to matches.

    When I played and took my turn standing as an umpire, I was terrible. I spent too much time talking to the players!!

  6. yea, county cricket would do him a world of good, and his bowling would be ideally suited to the seaming conditions. There’s inherently little difference between Pathan and Praveen – both swing the ball in the mid-120s, and on subcontinental pitches where it’s slow off the pitch and thus readable, I wonder if Praveen will be found out as well.

    Toots, 120-130 is considered ideal for swinging the new ball, but reverse swing occurs at higher speeds, and is thus late and deadly.

  7. David Barry kindly provided this article for our readers perusal about the mechanics of swing.

    Well worth a look.

  8. what a day for brothers! Astonishing comeback by India after they seemed dead, with 56 needed off 28. That’s the beauty of the T20 format – long enough that it’s not a crapshoot and short enough that most matches are close.

  9. I was just about to write essentially the same thing RK. Siblings! You’re happy. I’m happy. What are we going to do to cheer Toots up? Does Fred have a brother? A sister? A cousin?

  10. India are playing some bold cricket. They deserved their win. Also I liked Bandara’s spell. Although a little wayward some of his deliveries were absolute gems.

    You forgot to add RK that they were seven down at the time. Only the very best teams escape from that position.

  11. Any one catch Ajinkya Rahane’s 165 and 98 in the Duleep Trophy finals? He seems a good one to add to the Test/ODI mix, in addition to Kaif, Badri and others.

  12. I saw Rahane’s innings, and also some of his Ranji efforts – he seemed to be a bit strokeless until the second innings of the Duleep, to be honest, but he evidently has temperament. I think we need to let some of these players get a solid grounding in domestic cricket before talking about national selection, like they do in Australia. Besides, there are a few others in the queue who are more experienced.

    But definintely a prospect for the future – I think he averages in the high 60s over 2-3 seasons.

    Nesta, yea, I forgot to mention – I was telling my friend before the Indian innings that they bat right till no. 9, and so theoretically, no score should be un-chaseable. And so it proved.

  13. Yea..last night the Missus told me that its all over when India was 7 down and the equation looked out of reach.I just kept insisting that Pathan can do it..and I meant only Yusuf.But Irfan came to the party too (Fernando bowled the wrong length to the younger Pathan, much to my glee !)..

    And I liked Yusuf’s comment at the awards: “The balls were in my area..and I hit them.”So simple !

    I do want to cheer up Toots..but we need to find an attacking opening batsman for Eng soon ! Either Cook or Strauss reinvent themselves or they try out someone like Mascarenhas.

  14. I’m not a great fan of Gavaskar the commentator – he’s far too partisan and always seems to have a chip on his shoulder – but he cracked me up late on in the Indian innings with this line – “Now’s the chance for the Pathan brothers to do to Sri Lanka what the Lehman Brothers did to the world”

  15. Rajesh – That’s a great line from Gavaskar!

    Kumar – I’d love our very own Jayasuriya or Sehwag, but there’s little sign on the horizon. I’d settle for this in Antigua: Eng 370 all out (140 overs) WI 290 all out (100 overs) Eng 220 all out (80 overs) leaving WI 300 in four sessions. Game on if that happens!

  16. What happened to Will Jefferson? I remember he’s very tall and was being talked about as a potential England opener a couple of years back.

    Also, is Joe Denly any good?

  17. Whatever this Indian win was…luck is surely shinning on Dhoni. Never seen such a lucky captain, getting away from a situation where the team fights back so strongly. Hats off to the Pathan bros !

  18. I wasn’t too impressed with Dilshan as captain. He looked noticeably displeased or troubled when the fielding and bowling misfired, and handed the match to the Indians by giving Dilhara the 19th over. Jayasuriya should have bowled that over, and would have given the Lankans a decent chance.

  19. RK – I have had the same feeling about Sunny. I am torn between accepting him as a good commentator to a lunatic the next day. I think its his temperament that betrays him. You can be biased and still be level-headed and make people accept you (Bill Lawry comes to mind). But I will say that he is one of the beacons of Indian commentators and along with Ravi, can refrain from using cheesy copied lines (Arun, Siva). Occasionally he says funny goofy lines like that one. He also said ‘this is a chance for Dilhara to prove the fans wrong and take three wickets in this over’ that was the funniest line of them all.

  20. Oh, I’d take Gavaskar any day, and I think he’s still the best among subcontinental commentators. Shastri is all right too. Harsha is too verbose, just doesn’t know when to stop talking. I think something in Siva’s voice actually hits a resonance frequency ni my brain and drives me unaccountably nuts – I truly hate him. Arun Lal is a tourism pimp, not a commentator. The rest is just dross.

    It’s a shame Glenn Turner isn’t on the air any more. I used to love his unhurried and anecdotal style. Ian Chappell is also very anecdotal and lends a lot of colour, but is a bit crotchety, which is fine. Benaud of course remains the eminence grise among all of them.

    I’m ashamed that I sound a bit like a brown sahib, denigrating the subcontinental commentators while praising the Caucasians. But what to do, this is genuinely how I feel.

  21. I like Gavaskar for the insight he brings into discussions about batting technique.Shastri doesn’t have much to offer on batting, but he does a fair job, and tries to delve into the captain’s mind or the bowler’s mind.

    And I like Boycott too :-)

    Among Aussie commentators, I have a soft corner for Benaud because he is the first expert I have seen on TV (during the Benson & Hedges tournament in 84-85 on Channel 9 beamed live in India).Memories !

    Ian Chappell is very good too, though I have a complaint against him :-) I saw him once at the Library Bar in Taj President (South Mumbai), and even though couple of Aussie players were around (2001 test series), Ian was the one I wanted to speak to, basically express my admiration for him.But he sounded very aloof.And kept nursing his drink.It was a disappointment.Never again have I approached a cricketer ! (But if I bump into Gilly during the IPL, I will may be request his autograph for my 4 year old daughter).

    But my favorite is Mark Taylor.

  22. Oh forgot to mention, I agree with RK.Arun Lal sucks big time..I wish the channels rope in Anil Kumble.He would be a welcome addition !

  23. Speaking of commentators, I’d love to see/hear Gilly up there. During one of the T-20s against NZ in 2007 or 2008, Symonds and Gilly were given mics on the field and I though Gilly was great. Articulate, funny and spontaneous.

    RK: I’m shocked you don’t like Harsha! I find him the least biased (unlike Gavaskar) and cliche-prone (unlike Shastri), and I love his voice (ok, it’s getting too bro-mantic now). I also feel he has some Benaud-like traits such as shutting up when you can hear interesting sledges/dialogue on the field. Agree about Siva and Arun Lal. It pisses me off that “SRK” pronounces India names like Pathan worse than non-Indian commentators do.

  24. Just saw the Test side – I’m ok with Dhawal Kulkarni and Balaji being in, as a reward for good performances in Ranj this year. But Badrinath is fast becoming our own Owais Shah – dropped from the team for no fault, for he didnt play a single game. I realise it’s a 16-man squad and I can’t really say who Badri should replace. Karthik is a far inferior batsman, but they neede d a second WK; Vijay did no wrong in the one test he played and since tehn in the domestic game. I just feel for poor Badri – lord knows he deserves a break.

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