The sun has set on yet another test series between India and Sri Lanka. There have been many pluses and minuses over the course of the tour for India. The biggest being Virender Sehwag's all round performance in this series and a look at two new comers to the test fold being Abhimanyu Mithun and Suresh Raina.
Coming to Virender Sehwag, in 5 innings Sehwag managed to pile up 348 runs at an average of 69.60 but more importantly at a strike rate of 97.47 being almost a run a ball. The rate at which this man scores runs in test cricket make him deservedly today the most feared opening batsman in test cricket. Why Sehwag has been unable to translate this phenomenal test record into ODI and T20 success is beyond me.
Gautam Gambhir had a forgettable series which got him 2 runs and lasted only 5 deliveries thanks to Lasith Malinga. Yuvraj Singh on the other hand got a century in the warm up game, a 50 at Galle and due to illness was out of the second test, which opened the door for Suresh Raina who grabbed the opportunity with both hands and got a Century on test debut at the SSC, Colombo in the second test. Further Raina played a crucial role in the chase in the third test where he ably partnered VVS Laxman after Tendulkar's dismissal. Raina in his innings in the third test never let the Sri Lankan bowlers get on top of him and mixed caution and aggression perfectly to guide India to a memorable test win.
Sachin Tendulkar had an outstanding series as well, he scored a double century at the SSC which ensured that India would not lose the match and kept the series alive and set up the stage for a wonderful test match at the P Sara Oval in Colombo.
Rahul Dravid did not manage to score an aggregate of 100 runs in the 5 innings that he played, further his batting average in the series was less than that of Ishant Sharma and Abhimanyu Mithun. If you look only at the stats you would think that Dravid was out of form. But seeing him play, he never looked uncomfortable, except when he figured out ways to get himself dismissed. He was reasonably fluent in his stroke making, but bad decisions and poor running contributed to his dismal performance in this series. However, i have no doubt that he will bounce back stronger in the next series.
VVS Laxman played a fighting innings in the first test with the tail, attempting to save the match, but again fell prey to his running between the wickets and ran himself out and buried india's chances. However, he made up for that in the 4th innings of the third test with a typical VVS century which eventually led India to the win. It is amazing how, despite all his accomplishments, he is still the most under rated test batsman in the Indian team.
Lastly coming to MS Dhoni, his batting form was quite dismal during this series, and to a certain extent i think it was a product of spending hours and hours behind the stumps and it is well known that he his having problems with his fingers and his hands due to his wicketkeeping duties. But despite all that he has to start showing up with the Bat more often in test cricket, as he is too good a batsman to not make his mark on this form of the game.
All in all the series was a successful one for the batsmen, barring the collapses in the first test, the bowlers on the hand had only 1 good session all series long. India has to do a lot of searching, firstly for a fast bowler who can bowl 140 kmph and above consistently and bother international test batsman.
Secondly, coming to the spin department, the gap between the spinner we have and say a world class retiree like murali was shown in the 1st test match itself. Murali managed to bag 8 wickets in 2 innings, while the Indian spinners (Harbhajan and Ojha) got not a single wicket between them and the only spinner to pick up a wicket for India in the 1st test was Virender Sehwag. In my view, Harbhajan has not managed to fill Anil Kumble's shoes in test match cricket. Bhajji was outstanding as the second spinner, but in my view has failed miserably as the leader of this bowling unit. He seems to go on the defensive too quickly in test cricket and must slow down his pace and flight the ball much more if he wants to pick up wickets consistently.
The bowling cupboard looks quite bare and the selectors are going to have to look far and wide for a bowling unit which can take 20 wickets per match consistently, if India is to maintain its current test rankings and reputation.