Impressed with India's aggressive brand of cricket in the two Test matches so far, former Sri Lanka pacer Chaminda Vaas today said that the five-bowler theory is reaping rich results for the young visiting side.
Trailing the three-match series, India came from behind to humble the islanders by 278 runs and deny Kumar Sangakkara a fairytale ending in his swansong as the visitors drew level the rubber at 1-1. Vaas said the Indian unit has played good cricket to turn it around.
"It is good that India are playing aggressive cricket. All good sides do, especially when they play with five bowlers. They are rebuilding under Virat Kohli and I like their aggressive brand of cricket," said Vaas.
"At Galle, they got bogged down after the match turned against them. But they didn't let that happen again. Sri Lanka will have to play very good cricket to try to beat them again," he added.
If Ishant Sharma gave India the crucial breakthroughs at the P Sara Oval then it was Amit Mishra (4-43 in the first innings) and Ravichandran Ashwin (5-42 in the second innings) who really turned it around for the visitors. Vaas praised India on persisting with their five-bowler theory after the first loss.
"Playing five bowlers gives a certain balance to the teams. But that is not always possible. Then different combinations are tried out. There may not be proper all-rounders in there, but all good sides have players who can perform dual roles," said Vaas.
"For Sri Lanka, Kumar Sangakkara was an all-rounder, keeping wickets and performing with the bat as well. That allowed us to play an extra batsman or bowler for many years when he used to do both those roles," he added.
If India faltered in their tricky chase during the first Test then Sri Lanka caved in while chasing a mammoth 413-run target. Vaas said that indifferent targets are difficult to chase in the final innings of a Test.
"Batsmen tend to struggle in fourth innings whenever they are facing indifferent targets. It was a high total for Sri Lanka and they couldn't cope with it. Something similar happened with India in Galle too. They were just chasing 176, a very small total, but they got bogged down and paid the price," he said.
After Rangana Herath's seven-wicket spell in the first Test in Galle, the Indian batsmen did well to pick up the pieces and counter the left-arm spinner at the P Sara Oval. Vaas cautioned Herath and company to await another Indian attack in the final game.
"Herath has been a great servant for Lankan cricket. And he has taken a lot of wickets by pushing batsmen back. When they go on the defensive that is when he is at his best, and that is what had happened in Galle," said the former international.
"Indian batsmen didn't allow that to happen in the second Test and they won the battle against the Lankan spinners in the second Test. I have no doubt they will come strong against him and the other bowlers once again," he added.
When asked if Lankan cricket's batting fortunes will fluctuate going forward, Vaas replied in the negative, "It is the same story every time someone retires. We have had greats like Marvan Attapattu, Aravinda de Silva and Sanath Jayasuriya retire in the past. Then we had Muttiah Muralitharan and Mahela Jayawardene retiring.
"Now it is time to move on from Sangakkara and the talk is similar. Every time any one of these players has walked away and people have been happily pronouncing the death of Sri Lankan cricket. But we are still here and we are still very competitive. So I think we will survive Sangakkara's retirement too."
Going down memory lane, Vaas talked about his playing days with Sangakkara.
"One of my most cherished memories about him keeping wickets is when he used to regularly run up in between overs and talk to me about what different batsmen are doing. He would talk about certain points, and not just with me, but other bowlers as well.
"It makes for an interesting contribution because you get a point of view from behind the stumps as well," said the former pacer.
"He was the greatest batsman Sri Lankan cricket has produced and there's no denying that. He has always given his hundred percent for the game and he has played it in the right spirit.
He has set a path on which future Lankan cricketers can walk on and he goes away from the game having achieved everything. I don't think there can be a greater tribute than that," he added.
Before the first Test in Galle, Sangakkara had admitted that not winning an ODI World Cup would always be a sore point with him. Vaas said that a World Cup trophy is a must-have on a great cricketer's shelf but opined that Sangakkara would not regret the miss.
"Yes, every cricketer wants to win that trophy. But Sangakkara has been part of many Lankan teams that have always challenged for the title in every tournament they played. I was with him in the Sri Lankan team that reached the final of the 2007 World Cup in West Indies.
"Then four years later, he was the captain when Sri Lanka again reached the final of the World Cup. He might have missed out on both occasions, but it tells you about the quality of player he is. He never gives up. He is fully committed to what he wants to achieve and I do believe he will be very happy with the way his career has shaped up," he signed off.