Top Menu

The Slow Rise and the Swift Fall

9 September 2011.

It might years before Sri Lanka and India regain their full powers.

India and Sri Lanka have hardly won a match since the World Cup final. Certainly Mahendra Dhoni’s fellows did subdue the West Indians but they are weak and fractured and anyhow several of the top players were missing. Otherwise it has been a barren spell for both outfits.

Several reasons can be found for the decline. Two established coaches, Gary Kirsten and Trevor Bayliss, left after the CWC and that can cause an upheaval. It’s too early to say anything about their replacements. Suffice it to remark that by the look of things the departees had an acute sense of timing!

Mahela Jayawardene

Mahela Jayawardene playing for Sri Lanka in 2014.
Photo ©: Amal316, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Next comes the plain fact that the finalists were rushed into the IPL days after the final and so were unable to release their emotions.

Few players enjoy the privilege of winning a World Cup, or even losing in the final, and the pent up tensions needs an outlet. Instead they found themselves playing footling T20 matches, often against their comrades. If motivation was lost it’s hardly be surprising, and fitness follows in its footsteps.

It’s also hard to avoid feeling that both sides reached their peaks in the CWC. In Sri Lanka’s case Murali retired straight afterwards and the team has not won any of his subsequent nine Test matches. India also fielded several old hands of high calibre. Have Zaheer and Sachin Tendulkar been the same since that last dream was fulfilled?

Poor administration

Both nations have, too, suffered from poor administration. Kumar Sangakkara has spoken out about the malaise in his country and although his words were resented they were not contradicted. By all accounts the Board is well nigh bankrupt. Still, that did not stop it building a ridiculous ground in a remote place. But, then, the President’s son is the local MP.

India’s problem has not been so much with cronyism and corruption as with an exhausting schedule that has sent them up hill and down dale. It is not realistic to expect players to spend so much time on the road and to retain their highest standards. Bad habits creep in when idealism drops its guard. Moreover the demands forced the selectors to rest senior players, thereby reducing the meaning of the matches. Meanwhile the priority given to IPL undermined the national side and its coach.

In any event it’s clear that both teams are in decline and it might be years before they regain their full powers. As much can be told from two events that exposed the cracks.

Moment of truth

In India’s case the moment came when the team refused to chase victory in the West Indies even though the target was undemanding, bold batsmen were at the crease and others waited in the wings. Moreover the match could not be lost. It was a weak decision that hinted at weary spirits and even disillusion. Bear in mind that India was the strongest team at the time and that Test cricket is fighting for survival.

Sri Lanka’s moment of truth came during IPL, when Sangakkara and Mahela Jayawardene, pulled strings so that they could play more matches for their IPL sides and arrive in England only a few days before the first Test.

When a team’s two most educated, skilful and eminent players put their own interests before the national cause then something is rotten in the ranks.

Meanwhile their hosts were sharpening their claws ready for battle. Sri Lanka and India have been trounced by an impressive England outfit but have assisted in their own downfalls. Both are tumbling down the rankings. So often it happens, the slow rise and the swift fall.

(This piece was written before the third India-England ODI)

This article was written for The Hindu.
No ratings yet. Be the first to rate this article.