July 26th, Tuesday – I woke up pretty early with a spring in my step to run a few errands to be on the couch at 9:30 AM (IST), in front of my TV, for the series opener of India’s tour of Sri Lanka. Cricket in the Emerald Isles have always got me interested for the assistance the pace bowlers and spinners get. Reminiscing some excellent bowling spells from Vaas and Muralitharan, I anticipated some contest between the SL bowlers and Indian batsmen (Yes, despite SL’s woeful performance against Zimbabwe). Galle has always been an excellent venue to play with the waves hitting the walls of the Galle fort, that offered a panoramic view of the cricket field.
It is not Galle Stadium of yesteryear, where one could stop by the kerb to witness some cricket, while driving through the fort gates. The SLC board has now put up corrugated sheets to prevent outsiders from watching any cricket. A pretty weird decision in a cricket loving island but the decision turned out to be a blessing. Passers-by were only not able to witness the horrendous bowling attack Sri Lanka put up for the opening test of the bilateral series against India. For decades, Galle has seen Muralitharan, Dharmasena, Herath weave their magic but a true Sri Lankan fan would have died a thousand deaths on witnessing the disastrous bowling put forth by their ‘below – mediocre’ cricket team.
Adjectives to describe Sri Lanka bowling – Tripe, Appalling, Disastrous, Horrendous, Dire, Harrowing, Hideous and the Thesaurus falls short. It is understandable to have poor days in Cricket and there can be bad bowling. What is a crime is bowling without a plan! Sri Lankan bowlers were bowling the lines and lengths that an Under-14 Cricket Team would have bowled to 2 levels higher senior team in a university ground.
Sri Lanka decided to include Lahiru Kumara for the injured Lakmal. Kumara was informed about that but it seemed he wasn’t informed that he will be the opening bowler of the series opener. A wide open chested action limited his movement from over the wicket and such horrendous was his line of attack that he went for 71 in his first 11 overs. Dhawan and Pujara killed him. Kumara was in awe of Pujara’s wristy flick and gifted him some half volleys around the legs. Was he even raised in Sri Lanka that he bowls on the legs to a sub-continent player, I wonder?
Another curious case was Dilruwan Perera who was dreaming of bowling Dhawan around his legs. In that pursuit, Dhawan must have swept him from outside the 6th stump to boundary as many a-times as Modi travelled outside India in the last year. Further, SL didn’t stop bowling on Dhawan’s legs. They know they can’t get him out so they just tried their luck if they can somehow break those legs. Know what! He would have still swept them, such was the rubbish line of attack that SL bowled.
Between over nos. 27 and 46, India scored at a rate of 6 runs per over, all credit to nightmarish bowling from SL. Dhoni almost booked his tickets to SL thinking ODIs have started first! Oddly surprisingly, Sri Lanka Captain brought Gunathilaka into the attack at this time (Gunathilaka averages 42 with an economy of 5.72). He starts with the shortest of the balls from an off-spinner qualifying to be a part of the funny cricket videos on Youtube. A very non-chalant hit from Dhawan and the ball landed in Colombo and scared the shit out of Asela Gunaratne (who is) being treated for his fractured thumb.
By the middle of the post-lunch session, debutante, Hardik Pandya had put an alarm to wake up at 5:00 PM and go to the hotel. R. Ashwin already left for the airport to catch a flight to Chennai for a short visit. Such was the apathy of the bowling and fielding for Sri Lanka that India shall be and will be allowed to bat until tea, tomorrow. It could be more if Ashwin doesn’t reach back in time.
Only good thing that went SL’s way was their Captain walked out in a blazer and didn’t forget to spin the coin. But he forgot to take wickets. Sri Lanka bowled three maiden overs in the first 55 overs (9% of overs, how bad is the bowling in Test match cricket). SL players have their shirts not tucked in and it seems like they are playing some tennis cricket along the coastline, where by the end of day’s play, players would go back to riding their boats and fishing in shallow waters. Hope, they can catch some sense on how to bowl on the first day of a series opener. Meanwhile, India is doing what they love to do. Offering their batsmen to devour on the poorest of the bowling attacks and pile up runs. The new coach can sip on the margaritas each hour on each day of this tour.
But this is Cricket and things can change quickly. SL batsman will not only be batting against an Indian bowling line-up with 2 of their bowlers ranked in top 3 in ICC rankings but also against their own bowling attack that is leaking an Everest of runs. I am not completely sure about the series scoreline, but I was really gutted to not see SL turn up on a day that could have rejuvenated their fanfare, at the least on the Galle fort.
This article was drafted at 3:30 PM (IST) when India was 303-3 with 24 overs to play (that’s nearly 50% of an ODI innings). By the time you read this, India will be 400 odd for 3 with SL captain under-bowling himself.