The day was almost entirely consumed by our journey back to Colombo via Galle. We stopped by Galle to say hi to Jayanananda Warnaweera, who happened to introduce us to Mr. Ajit Jayasekara, CEO of Sri Lanka Cricket (SLC). We exchanged pleasantries and updated him on our trysts in Sri Lanka.
The halt at Galle was brief – we wanted to thank Mr. Warnaweera for the wonderful opportunity he’d provided us to get to know about Sri Lankan Cricket and Galle a few days ago. We promised to visit Galle soon and headed off to Colombo – just in time for a check in to the hotel and a taxi to take us to the India England game at the Premadasa.
Now who’d have thought …
We spent the best half of the pre-toss period running through a derisive critique of names that had no rights to be here as part of the Indian setup – triggered by observing Piyush Chawla practise his leggies on the field.
The popular topic was, in truth, about Gambhir’s struggles (longer formats inclusive) in the middle and how he suddenly – and unconvincingly – lost the ability to play those long innings’ we’d seen him play that landed him the ICC award a couple of years back. His innings of forty odd yesterday was quantifiable, if desultory, but this should be the natural predicate for a man who desperately needs to get his act together at home (extended to subcontinent wickets) prior to tours overseas.
The idea of opening with Pathan, at the cost of Sehwag (not in the XI), was a bad one. Pathan has been enduring through some tough times, with his name amongst a few included in the suspect-list. A low score would, in all probability, dip his confidence scales to levels resembling those that unfortunately kept him out of the Indian radar prior to this year. He looked out of sorts – period.
With Kohli extending his purple patch to another innings, it must’ve been hard on Gambhir, at the other end, to have curbed his instincts to go after the English attack – which was being made look amateurish by Kohli. To his credit, he stuck to his game plan – although one would imagine he ended up consuming a few balls too many. A strike-rate of 118 doesn’t seem to indicate that.
Both Kohli and Gambhir decided to play Swann out (although the former did hole out to Swann at deep mid-wicket)– his 4 overs yielding a miserly 17 runs. I thought Swann was brilliant – I’ve seen him live quite a few times, but as I tried to observe Kieswetter’s work from behind the stumps (and how he reacted to Swann), I couldn’t help but admit that the Englishman is one of the best in the trade. I know Harbhajan ended up with match-winning figures, but out there, if I had to pick between the two of them, Swann looked better. But yes, I do know this is Harbhajan’s first outing in over a year – he will take his share of credit, for sure.
I know it might sound convulsive, but the Indian batsmen were sensible in paying Swann his due respect whereas, the Englishmen played shots they’d never want to see videos of against the two spinners. One striking thing about the England innings was how closely it mimicked the debates over their inability to conquer spin in the sub-continent. I almost got a feeling that Piyush Chawla was Anil Kumble in disguise – pardon the pun please.
Kieswetter, on the other hand, looked suspect behind the wickets against spin. There have been numerous occasions when deliveries flighted in line with the stumps have tempted batsmen charging forward – only for them to miss and Kieswetter to fumble. His missed stumping of Gambhir highlights the problems that he’s been carrying in his baggage for quite some time.
And finally, I know I’ll be spelt a villain if I don’t mention Rohit’s accolades here. To his credit, he played a crucial knock – his innings would’ve been more valuable had the English batsmen applied themselves on this wicket to put up a better fight. After Swann’s arrest, when the Indian run rate looked a touch below par, he did outstandingly well to push the score to 170. His six over covers off Jade Dernbach was my shot of the day – purely for its timing and (lacklustre – but popped-eyes) execution.
India will be satisfied, whereas Stuart Broad will have to recognize (in case he hasn’t already) that his young artillery has to handle spin if they want to entertain any hopes of progressing to the later stages of this tournament. We managed to spot a couple of England fans outside the stadium after the game. They were happy to agree for a chat – the video will be uploaded shortly.
PS: You can see the video here