Mathews & Co. have no clue

OPENERS AJINKYA RAHANE, THE MAN OF THE MATCH, and Shikhar Dhawan (below) simply toyed with the Lankan attack.-PICS: K.R. DEEPAK OPENERS AJINKYA RAHANE, THE MAN OF THE MATCH, and Shikhar Dhawan (below) simply toyed with the Lankan attack.

The opening match of the Micromax Cup that ended on November 2 in Cuttack’s Barabati Stadium was won by India by a whopping 169 runs. S. SABANAYAKAN reports.

Sri Lanka was hurriedly called in to play a five-match ODI series, to honour the commitment to the sponsors and the hosting associations, when West Indies abruptly withdrew from its tour of India. It was unfortunate that the West Indies, which was beginning to fire in the ODIs against the world champion, decided to abandon the tour and return home. To fill in the void, India sought the support of its neighbour which readily accepted the invitation. But the Sri Lankan team was not fully prepared for the occasion.

The opening match of the Micromax Cup that ended on November 2 at Cuttack’s Barabati Stadium was won by India by a whopping 169 runs.

Angelo Mathews did admit on the eve of the match that the team had began fitness training only a week before the start of the Indian tour. “As soon as we got to know we are going to India we changed our plans. We were concentrating on fitness till then,'” he explained. '”But then the change of plans is the challenge and as players we need to adept as soon as possible. We have tried to prepare as much as we can. And I am pretty sure the boys are ready for the game,” he observed.

Mathews put up a brave front going into the game, but suffered a heavy blow in the end.

Had Lanka batted after winning the toss, the match would have ended much before the scheduled close. When it asked India to bat first on a nice batting strip, the two openers went in to party in the middle.

Sri Lanka dominated the show for the first 10 overs as the pitch aided the bowlers to some extent. The Indian pair weathered the initial movements and settled down to have the measure of the Sri Lankan attack, where the captain tried eight bowlers without much success.

After being dropped once each by wicketkeeper Kumar Sangakkara very early in their innings, Man of the Match Ajinkya Rahane and Shikhar Dhawan batted beautifully.

Having got his first ODI hundred against England at Birmingham exactly two months earlier, Rahane came up with a terrific 111 (108b, 13 fours and two sixes). Dhawan too batted with gay abandon to hit 113 (107, 14 fours and three sixes), his sixth century. The Indian pair literally toyed with the Lankan attack. The two put on 231 runs for the opening wicket and helped India reach a total of 363 for five in 50 overs to create new record in the venue.

The match was also a landmark for Suresh Raina, who, playing in his 200th ODI, went past 5,000 runs in this format. His 52-run cameo with four boundaries and three sixes off 34 balls made the day for the packed galleries.

It was clear from the hiding the Lankans received, the team was not ready to take on India in India.

When Sri Lanka began the run chase, the Indian fast bowlers gave everything they got to bamboozle the opposition. But for Varun Aaron, who limped off after four overs, both Umesh Yadav and Ishant Sharma bowled with fire. Ishant Sharma had a great match, picking up four wickets and Yadav a couple. Only the peerless Mahela Jayawardene could face the Indian attack with flair, before falling to emerging left-arm allrounder Axar Patel for 43. Thisara Perera tried to slog in the company of tail-enders to make 29 off 27 balls but it was too little coming too late in the innings.

Sri Lanka was bundled for 194 in 39.2 overs, leaving India 1-0 up in the series. It was sad indeed to see the two torch-bearers of Sri Lankan cricket, Jayawardene and Sangakkara, were in no position to help the team, which is otherwise fairly inexperienced. Lahiru Gamage, who made his debut, will remember his maiden wicket of Ambati Rayudu, though the team suffered a massive defeat.

Mathews tried to defend his team by saying that the openers could have given a good start. “I thought our approach in the first 10 overs was not that great. At least we could have shown some intent,” he said.

'”We don’t have Lasith Malinga and Rangana Herath. Dhammika Prasad and Suraj Randiv are returning to the team after a long time. It’s a leraning curve. I hope they would keep learning,” he said.

Mathews gave credit to the Indian bowlers and batsmen. “Indian bowling attack is formidable and the batsmen batted brilliantly,” he felt. Dhawan said it was a very good feeling to win the opening match with a big margin. “It gave a lot of confidence to the team. It was good to see the openers in a 200-run partnership,” he said.

“It’s a very good sign that opening batsmen are scoring runs consistently. The bowlers maintained good line and length with great pace,” he added.