The true value of Cheteshwar Pujara has now been realised
Colombo: Matches are won on the field, but can easily be lost in the mind. Sri Lanka’s decision to dish out a green top for the third Test was a positive move but, unfortunately, that’s where the positivity ended for their team. If you don’t have a moment of indecision to bowl first after winning the toss, you better play the horses that are likely to suit the course. Sri Lanka didn’t take that route, played only two seam bowlers and eventually paid the price. Even after reducing India to 14 for 2 and then 180 for 7, they ended up conceding over 300 runs, which is about 75 runs above par for this pitch. The primary reason for allowing India to get away was the lack of resources, for Prasad started with a stiff neck and Mathews wasn’t willing to share the bowling workload as much. As a result, Mathews operated with spinners from one end for the majority of Indian innings, and that’s where they lost the grip on the match.
Cheteshwar Pujara negotiates a Lankan bowler yesterday. Pic: AP/PTI
Pujara, the rock
Comebacks are considered to be tougher than debuts, for the expectations are quite different. When you make your debut, there’s a fascination for the unknown and some romanticism around the idea of unearthing a new talent.
Hence, you get a longer rope. But the same people are not as forgiving when you are making a comeback. Every move of yours is seen from a prism of doubt. One or two failures are enough for people to write you off for good. Add to that, the pressure of tough conditions and batting in an unfamiliar position and you will know the real value of Pujara’s efforts. He’s not only redeemed himself but also done enough to force the team management to have a rethink about the batting order. It will be very surprising if someone else is preferred over him for the home series against South Africa.
Ishant back in form
Bowling was considered to be India’s overseas woes, for Indian bowlers simply couldn’t bowl the opposition out twice enough times. And one reason for their inefficiency was not finding a leader of the pack after the departure of Zaheer Khan. Ishant was always around but never really assumed the responsibility of becoming the leader. There were constant issues with his wrist breaking at the point of release, which resulted in the ball coming out of his hand with the seam wobbling around. But that seems to be a thing of the past. Right now, the wrist is firmly behind the ball and the seam bolt upright. The only issue that he needs to address is of overstepping, for that’s likely to cost him a few Test wickets in the future.
Match on our hands
Once again, the new Kookaburra has made early inroads as India are tottering at 21 for 3 in the second innings. Batting does get easier once the ball gets older, but it’s not before some serious damage is inflicted. The lead of 111 is a lot in the context of this game but it’ll come handy for India only if the batting doesn’t capitulate on the fourth day today. There’s been a lot of rain and a fair amount of game has been lost, but still, the match has moved rapidly. We do have a match on our hands in a game where the winner takes all.