Game plan needed to tackle Dambulla

Challenging pitch requires batsmen with positive mind

Game plan needed to tackle Dambulla

For starters, even if the home team is in action, it doesn’t guarantee a full house. Crucially, from a cricketing perspective, if offers conditions like nowhere else in this part of the world with the bowlers, for once, the hunters and the pampered batsmen being the hunted.

A combination of bowler-friendly tracks with seam and bounce, and the propensity of the white ball to misbehave under light on a juiced up track, has often provided a more even contest between bat and ball. Perhaps, the absence of the big strokes that are such a common feature of one-day international cricket is what is keeping the fans away, but  from the cricketers’ perspective, the level-playing field that the 22-yard strip here offers couldn’t be more welcome.

On day one of the competition, India came unstuck in the face of a massive chase, undone by the bounce, however spongy, and seam movement New Zealand’s tall, hit-the-deck quicks extracted. On the same pitch on Friday, Sri Lanka handled the conditions with greater aplomb, though it must be admitted that, with a lot of the grass having disappeared and the pitch not having been watered since Tuesday, its character did change substantially.

When India begin their demanding bid to wend their way back into the tournament on Monday, against the hosts, it will be on a brand new strip, which wore a greenish look on Saturday morning but will undoubtedly shed some of its grass by match-afternoon. The key to India’s success will not so much be whether Mahendra Singh Dhoni wins his first toss of the tour. What mindset they bring with them will determine how well, or otherwise, India handle the conditions.

Sri Lanka showed on Friday night that, with a bit of luck and loads of application, it is possible to chase down a total here. India themselves did so, famously, in the Asia Cup match against Pakistan in June, storming past their opponents’ 267 by riding on adrenaline and desire. It’s that same hunger and passion which must return pronto if India are not to make up the numbers in a tournament where they are already playing serious catch-up after only the first set of matches have been completed.
“Losing the toss and winning the match is tough, but it does our confidence a lot of good,” Sri Lankan skipper Kumar Sangakkara pointed out. “We are not going to limit sides to less than 200 every time. The mental attitude is that whether we are chasing 150 or 250, we try to approach the target in the same way. The game plan has to be positive.”

India approached New Zealand’s 288, it appeared, without a significant game plan. Their technical inadequacies stood exposed, as did tactical shortcomings. By being rolled over for 88, India conceded the bonus point; additionally, they are saddled with a nett run rate of -4.00, and only three straight victories will guarantee them a place in the final.

Sri Lanka’s late bid for the bonus point was thwarted by the Kiwis. “Losing with the bonus point would have been very disappointing, losing all the momentum we had generated in the last game,” New Zealand skipper Ross Taylor acknowledged. “It’s still disappointing but you have to take some positives out of it.”

Sangakkara, as is his wont, was candid. “It would have been nice to get the bonus point as it could be a very important factor in Dambulla. Unfortunately, we weren’t good enough to get a bonus point today, but we were good enough to win.”
Rested and hopefully refreshed after that drubbing on Tuesday, India would do well to put their opening-match horrors behind them, because another slip-up could mean curtains. And should they obsess about the toss and the pitch, they would be well advised to heed Sangakkara’s words.

“Whether you win the toss or not, there is a match to be won,” the Lankan skipper observed. “When we look at the wicket, whether we bat or field first, the important thing is to win the game. We need to plan accordingly. We can’t simply give up a game once a team makes 250. Our duty is to win matches and do our level best.”

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