The question of being aware of the moment

Virat Kohli... a maiden one-day hundred.-PTI

It’s not like everything went right for India. Things went right when they mattered, writes Nandita Sridhar.

In a series that featured flat tracks, a treacherous track and great batting performances, India finished the winner 3-1, despite a spirited performance by a depleted Lankan side. Here’s a look at what went right and wrong for both teams.

What went right for India:

It’s not like everything went right for India. Things went right when they mattered. At Rajkot, Virender Sehwag scored fluently and heavily, galvanising a side in the manner only he can. The Sri Lankans believed the Rajkot game, where more than 400 runs were scored by each side, was the easiest opportunity they had to win. Their inability to capitalise on favourable situations was exploited by the Indians in every game except Nagpur.

At Cuttack, the Lankans had a rousing start after Tillakaratne Dilshan scored 40 out of his 41 runs in fours. Upul Tharanga and Kumar Sangakkara were looking good, when skipper Sehwag’s decision to bowl himself triggered a batting collapse.

Interestingly, Sehwag decided to bowl to get through a few overs quickly. India had already suffered a ban of M. S. Dhoni because of a slow over-rate, and could ill-afford to lose Sehwag as well.

The skipper deceived Sangakkara in the air and had him stumped. Ravindra Jadeja, who finished with his best figures of four for 32, and Harbhajan Singh got drift and turn to help India restrict Sri Lanka.

The Indians were again in some trouble with early wickets, when Sachin Tendulkar stepped up with characteristic class. Chasing Sri Lanka’s 239 could have proved tricky on a turning track, but the great man held the innings together with an unbeaten 96.

The perfect example of India’s ability to find the men for the situations was the Kolkata match. Sri Lanka had set a target of over 300, and the Indian openers, Sehwag and Tendulkar, departed quickly. Gautam Gambhir and Virat Kohli’s double century stand reflected a great deal what modern day batting was about.

There was no tentativeness and no apparent doubt that the target could not be overhauled. Both batsmen began attacking, and once the run-rate was healthy enough paced themselves very well.

Ravindra Jadeja, India’s bowling hero in Cuttack, is congratulated by Suresh Raina after a strike.-S. SUBRAMANIUM

Kohli had shown great promise in the Nagpur match with a half-century, and his century at Kolkata added weight to what most believe he could be in limited-overs cricket. The youngster’s technique is sound and his manner aggressive, which most believe could take him places.

Gambhir’s credentials need no elaboration. His unbeaten 150 did not just win India the match, but helped him prove a point to himself. “This is the first time I have finished a match. I was honestly having some doubts about my finishing abilities, so this could not have come at a better time for me,” said the left-hander.

Truly, The Indians had come on top of every difficult situation.

What did not go right:

There’s no easy way to describe India’s fielding. It was sometimes mediocre, sometimes abysmal, sometimes below par, which doesn’t say much. The ground fielding was passable, but it was the catching that could have gone on to cost the side.

Kohli, Suresh Raina and Jadeja brought fresh legs to the side, but even they were guilty of missing some catches. It was just that they gave themselves more opportunities to make up for the dropped catches.

Mike Young, formerly with the Australian team, is here as a fielding consultant, but he will need more time. Skipper Dhoni confessed his team was a mediocre fielding side.

“We just have to accept that we are the best batting and bowling side, but not the best fielding side. It will take some time to see improvements. Sometimes it is difficult for the faster bowlers to field after bowling 10 overs or so. We have to accept that just like how a spinner does not bowl fast, fielding is also something you are born with. But we are working on improving.”

It would be hard and cruel to point fingers at the bowling. The wickets were shamelessly batsman-friendly, despite which the Indian opening bowlers, Ashish Nehra and Zaheer Khan, tried their utmost. India did have problems with its third seamer. Both Praveen Kumar and Ishant Sharma were inadequate, which put more pressure on the other two quicks.

Sri Lanka What went wrong:

The Lankans were a severely depleted side. They repeatedly lost men along the way to injuries which threw their game plans off balance. Muttiah Muralitharan, Dilhara Fernando, Angelo Mathews, Chanaka Welegedara and Mahela Jayawardene, to name a few, were all casualties at some stage or the other.

Despite that, the visiting side did very well to put itself in favourable positions. Where Sri Lanka lost out was in converting them.

Skipper Kumar Sangakkara said, “it (the loss) has been just the inability to get over the line in crucial matches, especially in the first game. Even after the second match, which we won, there was a talk in the dressing room that we should have won the first one because this (second) one was more difficult.

“I think those kind of crunch situations which we haven’t converted reflects in the score-line. There hasn’t been much contrast in performances. Both sides’ batting has been dominant, and the bowling has been patchy at times. Unfortunately, we are playing without our best bowling attack, not even close to that, whereas Indians are playing with their full-strength attack.”

Sri Lanka also found it difficult to slot Sanath Jayasuriya. With Tillakaratne Dilshan having taken over his role at the top, Jayasuriya struggled to hold on to a place in the squad.

In the past, the Lankans have been guilty of failing to grab control of situations, despite possessing some of the most unique talents in the game. Here too, they lacked the experienced hands who could have won them matches. The side will go back proud for having done its best despite the injuries, but there will be a sense of disappointment.

The positives:

Tillakaratne Dilshan. Skipper Sangakkara’s decision to make him open in January 2009 could not have come at a better time for the opener. Dilshan was an overwhelming influence in the side, and jerked the Lankan innings to life repeatedly.

Upul Tharanga was another positive for the Lankans. He brings in a more stable kind of aggression into the pair, and showed the ability to adapt. There’s no doubt he’ll have a permanent place in the squad.

Sangakkara’s return to form has also been encouraging.

THE SCORES Fifth ODI, Dec. 27, 2009, New Delhi

Sri Lanka 83 for five in 23.3 overs (S. Jayasuriya 31).

(The match was abandoned because the pitch was seen as too dangerous for play.)

Fourth ODI, Dec. 24, 2009, Kolkata

Sri Lanka 315 for six wkts. in 50 overs (U. Tharanga 118, K. C. Sangakkara 60, M. Jayawardene 33, C. Perera 31) lost to India 317 for three in 48.1 overs (G. Gambhir 150 not out, V. Kohli 107).

Third ODI, Dec. 21, 2009, Cuttack

Sri Lanka 239 in 44.2 overs (U. Tharanga 73, T. Dilshan 41, K. C. Sangakkara 46, R. A. Jadeja four for 32) lost to India 243 for three in 42.3 overs (V. Sehwag 44, S. R. Tendulkar 96 not out, G. Gambhir 32, K. D. Karthik 32 not out).

Second ODI, Dec.18, 2009, Nagpur

India 301 for seven in 50 overs (S. R. Tendulkar 43, V. Kohli 54, M. S. Dhoni 107, S. K. Raina 68, S. Randiv three for 51) lost to Sri Lanka 302 for seven in 49.1 overs (U. Tharanga 37, T. Dilshan 123, M. Jayawardene 39, S. Kandamby 27, A. Mathews 37 not out, Zaheer Khan three for 63).

First ODI, Dec. 15, 2009, Rajkot

India 414 for seven in 50 overs (V. Sehwag 146, S. R. Tendulkar 69, M. S. Dhoni 72, V. Kohli 27, R. A. Jadeja 30 not out) beat Sri Lanka 411 for eight in 50 overs (U. Tharanga 67, T. Dilshan 160, K. Sangakkara 90, A. D. Mathews 38).

* * * Queering the pitch

It was a pity that the series did not get a deserving climax. The final ODI in New Delhi was abandoned after just 23.3 overs because the pitch was seen as being unfit and dangerous for play.

The re-laid wicket at the Ferozeshah Kotla offered variable bounce, irrespective of the delivery’s length. Dilshan and Jayasuriya both suffered blows due to the awkward bounce, and play was stopped when a delivery from Sudeep Tyagi kicked up viciously.

Alan Hurst, the Match Referee, then called off the match after consultations with umpires M. Erasmus and S. K. Tarapore, captains Dhoni and Sangakkara, and other officials.

The previous instance of an ODI being abandoned due to an unfit pitch was in Indore in 1997. Only three overs of the India-Sri Lanka match were possible, before it was called off.

Arun Jaitley, the Delhi District Cricket Association President, apologised to the spectators for the inconvenience caused, and said the ticket amounts would be refunded.

The BCCI announced it would dissolve its Ground and Pitches Committee with immediate effect.