From the publishers of THE HINDU
VOL.33 :: NO.36 :: Sep. 09, 2010
The long-drawn India's tour of Sri Lanka reaches its last stretch. We are at the business end of the ODI tri-series. This is also a tournament of long breaks between matches.
As New Zealand gears up for the crucial last league match against India, it faces a major problem. Astonishingly for a modern day competition — these are days where the matches are cramped — New Zealand has not batted in a game for 12 days. Ross Taylor's men did not get to bat in the rain-ruined match against Sri Lanka and here they were going into a crunch game with virtually no rhythm or momentum as far as batting was concerned.
The organisers get the schedule wrong. While a reserve day following a match-day is understandable, there was little need to stretch the competition more by giving the players an extra day of rest. After all, this is the era of back-to-back games and often hectic travel.
An itinerary such as the one in Dambulla can take the competitive edge away from the cricketers, particularly in serene locations; the team hotel is in a forest near the town. In this picturesque area, spotting a group of elephants is common; rare birds often descend on the Dambulla lake. This is a top tourist destination.
While the Kiwis would have enjoyed the view, they face a genuine hurdle in getting their act together with the bat. The affable Taylor does not make a song and dance of the issue, but he dwells on his batsmen lacking match practice. Twelve days is a long time. Not surprisingly, the Kiwis stumble on the chase against India.
The man from a family of wrestlers, Praveen Kumar, pulls his weight. Cricket has spread from the big cities to the smaller towns. Praveen has had a very rustic upbringing. He is a smart lad though and has settled well in the jet-setting world of international cricket. Praveen is a talented swing bowler too. He comprehends well the dynamics of the ball.
The strong breeze blowing across the ground in the afternoon is a boon to the swing bowlers. Actually the gust is so strong that it reminds you of windy Wellington. The very low stands at the Rangiri Stadium enable the wind to flow freely. Mercifully, the stadium is not a mountain of concrete. As you step out of the media box, you are almost swept off your feet on occasions. This is one of those parts in Sri Lanka where there can be a nip in the air in the evenings.
This has been a tournament of low turnouts. However, the final — India vs Sri Lanka — is a big match. The roads leading to the ground are packed with vehicles and the stadium is filled to the brim.
The home supporters have plenty to cheer about as well. Sri Lanka triumphs handsomely.
And Dinesh Karthik, who receives his third rough decision in five matches, is left wondering what he had done wrong. Cricket is a funny game.
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