Lanka does it in style

Sri Lanka bowled first and by dint of an immaculate line and length restricted India to 130, which is not a winning score in any short run match. More to the point, their run-averse bowling also scrambled the brain of India’s cricket mastermind M. S. Dhoni, who walked off the field clearly less than impressed with the performance of his top-end batsmen. By Ted Corbett.

As I go back to 1955 with the lovely island of Sri Lanka you can imagine that I was overjoyed to see their cricketers win the World T20 tournament by beating India decisively in the final.

I first went there as a 20-year-old National Service conscript on my way to fight for Queen and Country in Korea; or that is what I thought when we disembarked for a brief stopover in Colombo.

Some of us wandered across the dock area to see a hotel and the first chance of a strong drink in a couple of weeks when out came a group of people who were obviously among the island’s leaders.

They were led by Prime Minister Bandaranaike and when he saw our uniforms he stopped for a photo opportunity and the chance to chat.

I explained we were on our way to Korea but he would have none of that. “Make the most of your few hours in my beautiful island and come back to see us when you have a field marshal’s baton in your kit bag,” he laughed.

We did not realise that he would be assassinated a few months later and I certainly never thought I would visit his beautiful island so often. (Although I had many adventures in Korea and Japan editing the forces newspaper in the next few months I never did win that field marshal’s baton. Sadly.)

In 1985 I ran away from India with the England party when the troubles that followed Mrs. Gandhi’s assassination sent us all scuttling for shelter in Sri Lanka and I was to tour there three more times during my 25 years following England round the world.

So when the team went hurtling on to the ground to celebrate their T20 World Cup victory there was part of me that wanted to be there with them.

Of course anything can happen in a T20 match but there were lessons for all of us in those 37.5 final overs leading to victory.

The first was spelt out by Paul Farbrace, the Sri Lankan coach, before the game.

“Beat India?” he asked in reply to a TV interviewer’s question. “We have done that twice recently and we are well prepared. We have put together simple plans for several of their players and we feel we can win.”

Inexplicably the experts in the studio and at the pitch side took no notice of this information and insisted India were the favourites. I sometimes have the feeling that other teams feel Sri Lanka are still among the non-Test nations, that they are not worthy of consideration whatever their track record.

India’s side was filled with great players — and if anyone has doubted the greatness of that electric eel of a batsman Virat Kohli they should think about changing that opinion — and they certainly had the spinners for the pitch.

Sri Lanka bowled first and by dint of an immaculate line and length restricted India to 130, which is not a winning score in any short run match. More to the point, their run-averse bowling also scrambled the brain of India’s cricket mastermind M. S. Dhoni, who walked off the field clearly less than impressed with the performance of his top-end batsmen.

I am sorry to say — since I have had reason to follow his illness and his career in detail and his book lies on my desk as I write — that Yuvraj Singh is no longer the giant who hit Stuart Broad for six sixes in an over and is at an age when he must consider retiring.

The fine touch, the power and the last degree of brilliant eyesight and timing has gone. More’s the pity for he has graced the game and he is a man who might also have won a field marshal’s baton.

So there is a pointer for the Indian selectors.

When Sri Lanka batted there were minor hiccups but nothing that could be thought of as a disaster and as he approached the end and his own fifty you could see the smile begin to break across the face of that wily old fox Kumar Sangakkara. I suspect he saw victory long before the rest of us.

I see no sadness in the departure from the hurly burly of T20 by either Sangakkara or Jayawardene. That is a game for the younger man not one hoping for the quieter life that is Test cricket.

Finally there was a lesson for England who brought a truly dreadful six months to an end by being drummed out of the T20 tournament early and frankly never looking as if they had a full broadside in their big guns.

It came as I reported earlier in this piece from Paul Farbrace, successful coach with Sri Lanka, one-time coach with the most successful England women’s team, appointed to help Jason Gillespie guide Yorkshire back to the top of county cricket.

Farbrace is as English as a cup of tea, a wet afternoon in midsummer or a village cricket team led by the local postman and probably only ten strong. He talks a lot of sense too and in this final he outwitted Duncan Fletcher, one of the greatest England coaches.

Would he not be a better choice as coach to the full England side than some of the names that have been bandied about?

Or are the ECB waiting for another five years to pass before they make Farbrace the obvious choice?