Friday, July 11, 2008

Lankan Lions still the Asian Champions.

The best fielding side added yet another Asia Cup title to their glorious history of Cricket. They mesmerized the Indians, or should I say, Mendis mesmerized the Indians down and out. Just when one thought that Sunny’s cameo may not have been enough to see the Lankans through, just when one thought Sehwag was going to do it yet again for India, the Sri Lankan Captain just smiled and unleashed his weapon – Ajantha Mendis. Ol’ warhorse, Vaas’ record of 8 wicket haul was almost going to be shattered. Murali and Kulasekara stepped in to complement Mendis from the other end. Jayawardene won hands down, with wily bowling changes, Mendis coming in whenever Sri Lanka pressed the panic button. With just six overs sent down by him, he had captured six wickets all by himself. Fittingly, with 6 scalps in the match and 17 in the tournament (even after missing a match), he was both Man of the Match and of the Tournament. I would add to this that it was for the first time in the tournament when there was a close encounter, between the bat and the ball.

The round robin semifinal stage was very tricky when it came to the rules. At one stage, when Pakistan were defeated by Sri Lanka, it was thought that they were out of the tournament, then it came forth that if India loses to Sri Lanka in their super-4 league match and if Pakistan wins their final match, Pakistan may reach the finals displacing India. But, India defeated a weak Sri Lankan (given their form) side, as Jayawardene thought it wise (Oh boy, he’s a genius!) to rest Vaas and his “Mystery Bowler” for the finals. I had to get up and clap for his decision. And Pakistan got rid of Bangladesh, playing for nothing but pride. Indians played well on these batting paradises, so well, that the middle order barely faced the music. The lack of the middle order preparation came fore when they were defeated by both Pakistan and Sri Lanka. They couldn’t handle the pressure of scoring at a rapid pace with not more than 5 wickets in hand.

But, all than aside, the top order looked in ominous form. The Delhi-Duo, Sehwag and gambhir provided the starts in every game. Gambhir looks just one short of invincible. Sehwag is now back to his brutal best. He was playing fearlessly in all games. Like, what can worry him with Gambhir at the other end??? Then, Raina comes in and carries on the momentum. Yuvraj got the starts but couldn’t convert into big scores, but can’t blame him, the ball is soft by the time he comes in and its tough to send the ball to the ropes. And, he would arrive late in the innings, giving him very less time to build his innings. So, I will not say he was bad at all, but a little more temperament can do him a world of good. Captain Dhoni was great on both sides of the wicket. The bowlers had mixed luck. Young Chawla was expensive and awkward. The Debutant Ojha impressed all, with good angles and arm balls. Ishant was finally back into the action when he had to do things by himself that try to get something out of the pitch. The swing bowlers, Pathan and Praveen thus went for runs. Rudra maintained good line and length.

Other bowlers who managed something out of nothing (pitches) were Rauf, the Pakistan medium paces and Kulasekara of Srilanka.

I feel the PCB has to rethink over the kind of pitches they are making. They were the flattest in the world. Someone needs to tell the curators that a game should have a great and close contest, not only between the teams, but also between the bat and the ball. It was pathetic to watch a tournament with an average first innings score of around 300. And what more, some of them being chased successfully, with plenty of overs remaining. This is killing the pacers. There is no purchase at all for the bowlers. I don’t think any bowler will bowl the “surprise” bouncers any more, when you play on these ruthless wickets. Any short ball will just hang in front of the batsmen while he can decide where to dispatch it. All tracks at the national stadium were equally disappointing.

Nevertheless, this tournament had the best two teams playing in the finals, and the best team won it. I can still recall Ian Chappel make a guess that India will find it difficult to chase any total put on by Sri Lanka with twenty overs of high quality spin to be send down together by Murali and Mendis. The Indian tour of Sri Lanka is to start soon with the first match of the test series starting on 23rd July. This series will once again put to test the mental toughness of both the teams.

So, can India spring a revenge? Will Sri Lanka hold the upper hand?
Only time will tell.

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