Onus on India to spoil Sangakkara farewell party

0
135

August 19, 2015

COLOMBO, SRI LANKA – A day before the second Test starts, the P Sara Oval was a beehive of activity.

Posters and photographs of Kumar Sangakkara, small and big, were stacked neatly at the entrance leading to the Sri Lankan dressing room, red carpets laid out in the VIP stands, comfortable chairs put in place and dusted to a nicety.

August 19, 2015

COLOMBO, SRI LANKA – A day before the second Test starts, the P Sara Oval was a beehive of activity.

Posters and photographs of Kumar Sangakkara, small and big, were stacked neatly at the entrance leading to the Sri Lankan dressing room, red carpets laid out in the VIP stands, comfortable chairs put in place and dusted to a nicety.

The sound of electric drills and shrill voices competed for cacophonous attention even as a harsh, unrelenting sun bore down remorselessly. It was a far cry from the calm serene of Tuesday only interrupted by the sound of bat striking ball and a thunderous downpour beating a rhythmic tattoo on the corrugated roofs.

Thursday (August 20) will mark the beginning of the end of a most illustrious international career. Five days on – or perhaps even less, given the recent trends in Test match cricket – Sangakkara will walk into the sunset, leaving cricket poorer but also in a better space. There will be no shortage of emotion, there will be no shortage of drama, and there will be no shortage of attention and attendance. The whole of Colombo, it would appear, is desperate to see one of Sri Lanka’s favourite sons in action for one last time.

The Indians have already had an experience of what it is like to see a legend sign off. Virat Kohli was among those that watched from close quarters as Sachin Tendulkar bid adieu in November 2013 at the Wankhede, leaving everyone teary-eyed and with lumps in their throats after a moving speech at the conclusion of a straightforward home victory. Respectful as he is of Sangakkara, Kohli will also be hoping that the beginning of the end of the Sangakkara era will coincide with the beginning of the beginning of a whole new chapter in Indian cricket.

What can you say of a Test match where a team produced two centurions and a bowler who picked up a ten-wicket match haul, and yet ended up on the losing side? India had Sri Lanka by the scruff of their neck in Galle, only for Dinesh Chandimal and Rangana Herath to orchestrate a heist of epic proportions. The turnaround was as astonishing as the turnover time was near instantaneous. The result, as much as the manner in which it was achieved, will have lifted Sri Lankan spirits no end. India have spoken about having already put the defeat behind them, but in the last many months, there hasn’t exactly been a direct correlation between words and deeds when it comes to the Indian team, so it remains to be seen if they have shaken off the potentially debilitating ill-effects of the galling Galle loss.

India will be without one of those two Galle centurions, what with Shikhar Dhawan having left for home with a hairline fracture in his right hand. It was precisely the kind of setback India could so easily have done without, but there is no better test of character than adversity, and if things aren’t adverse now from an Indian perspective, they never will be, one supposes.

Fortunately for them, M Vijay is all but certain to return to the playing XI after having sat out the Galle loss with a hamstring injury. Kohli was emphatic that a keen Vijay would play even if he was less than 100% fit; India badly missed his solidity as well as his enterprise in the second innings of the first Test, and while they would dearly have loved to have had Vijay and Dhawan opening the batting, they will gladly settle for Vijay and KL Rahul under the circumstances.

This enforced change apart, India are certain to make another tactical change. The team management read the pitch perfectly in Galle and went in with three spinners; the P Sara is more a pacers’ ally and India will revert to type with two spinners in the playing XI. That will mean at least a temporary exit for Harbhajan Singh, the least effective and impressive of the spinners in Galle, with Stuart Binny, a recent addition to the squad, set to return to Test cricket after one year on the sidelines.

Should he make the cut, Binny won’t be playing so much as the fifth bowler as a batsman who is more than a part-time bowler. In all likelihood, he will take the new ball because he is essentially a swing bowler who can be a decent wicket-taking option if there is help from the atmosphere, which the moisture in the air in this island nation invariably provides. He will also then lengthen the batting order by slotting in at No. 6, probably still one place too high for him but he is definitely more equipped to handle the demands of that number than Wriddhiman Saha.

There is some suggestion that Varun Aaron ought to make way for Bhuvneshwar Kumar as well, but in some ways, Binny and Bhuvneshwar are fairly similar bowlers. Too many changes might indicate a certain sense of panic, and in any event, Aaron’s extra pace can be a handful if he can get his act right, like he did at times in Galle even as he winkled out two batsmen with nasty lifters.

Sri Lanka will welcome back their own express bowler in Dushmantha Chameera, the wiry young man who is now fit again. Chameera will come in for Nuwan Pradeep, struggling with a hamstring injury as Sri Lanka intend to target India’s alleged fragility by adding more firepower to an attack that is already short neither on nous nor on skills.

Over the past few days, Kohli, Ravi Shastri and Amit Mishra have all at various stages waxed eloquent on the fearless cricket theme. India were undone by their own diffidence in Galle in another example of their inability to close out games. Just as winning is a habit, so is losing. India must dig deep to seize the moments and translate pockets of dominance into tangible results. If they are looking for inspiration, they need not look beyond Sangakkara. He didn’t start off as the boy wonder destined to rule the world, but he did rule the world through sheer bloody-mindedness and a work ethic second to none. And there is a massive learning in that.

Teams (likely)

Sri Lanka: Kaushal Silva, Dimuth Karunaratne, Lahiru Thirimanne, Kumar Sangakkara, Angelo Mathews (capt), Jehan Mubarak, Dinesh Chandimal (wk), Dhammika Prasad, Rangana Herath, Tharindu Kaushal, Dushmantha Chameera.

India: M Vijay, KL Rahul, Rohit Sharma, Virat Kohli (capt), Ajinkya Rahane, Stuart Binny, Wriddhiman Saha (wk), R Ashwin, Amit Mishra, Ishant Sharma, Varun Aaron.


Courtesy: Wisden India

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here