To be felled by Murali and Mendis can be compared to computer security wizards having their identities stolen by hackers. As Test defeats go, the one in the first Test was heavy, which could, however, be explained away.
Even such a vaunted batting lineup, most famous for taking on spinners and dismantling their reputation hour by hour, could be forgiven its lapses when confronted by Murali and a mystery spinner in his first Test.
The greater problem is the latest defeat points to the fact that India’s batsmen are ageing troubadours. They are quite capable of delivering when the conditions are true or flat but if there is so much as a bit of deviation from perfect behaviour on the part of the pitch, they are as lost as babes in the woods.
It’s not easy to accept that a set of batsmen who performed out of their skin in Australia at the beginning of the year could have lost it all by the time the South Africans got at them in early April in Ahmedabad in lively seaming conditions. What may have tricked us into believing the Motera debacle was an aberration was the subsequent victory achieved in Kanpur, albeit on a Bunsen burner.
The fall at the SSC might be bigger than the statistics of it all. What we see here is the beginning of the fall of an empire. This may be a hard fact to digest. And then there is always the hope that the student of the game could be proved wrong by a massive display of batting might by India on what everyone believes will be a turner at Galle. Truth to tell, the doomsday scenario may be closer to reality.
The Indians on tour are so notorious for tardy starts that the famous ethnic joke about Sardars used to apply about how Indians should play their second innings first.
It happened Down Under too where India were beaten in the first Test and clubbed to death by some horrendous umpiring from Steve Bucknor.
Their comeback, in a historic triumph at a venue, Perth, thought to be least suited to their cricket, gladdened our hearts.
The second spot in the Test rankings was India’s when the Proteas got here and Anil Kumble was happy to acknowledge that the series would indeed be a fight to keep the second spot on which the South Africans have had their eyes for long. In the light of subsequent events, a rapid revision of the prospects of India in Test cricket has to be undertaken.
Sehwag’s triple hundred was a great cause for celebration, the rarity of a batsman doing it twice in Test cricket making the event all the more remarkable.
To see the batsman who drew the Adelaide Test with the most disciplined knock of his career throw his wicket away with a hook shot in Colombo was to witness a change of attitude in him although such strokes are a part of his approach.
To see the likes of Dravid, Tendulkar, Laxman and Ganguly fall prey to the guiles of the Sri Lankan spinners who will now hunt in a pair that will soon become as famous as Ramadhin and Valentine was to get an inkling of what is in store for Indian batting. Their dismissals did not come from jaded responses in the wake of an exhausting IPL. They were brought down technically by masterly spin bowling.
In a very serious conversation on the future of Indian cricket, Dilip Vengsarkar confided in London recently that he thought that if he did not act in time to make the sweeping changes to youth for limited-overs cricket India would rapidly go the way of the West Indies.
In a sense, the chairman of selectors foresaw this decline of the seniors, who are all great when measured over the long term.
The fear is whether the autumn of their careers is giving way to winter is a frightful thought. As a long time admirer of the four galacticos and what they have achieved for India, I am only hoping that I am proved wrong and Team India stages a grand Galle comeback.
Republished with permission from The Asian Age