“Really proud of the boys”, says Kohli after India’s series win

Kersi - Pujara

kersi - r ashwin  
















By Kersi Meher-Homji

The recently concluded India- Sri Lanka series in Sri Lanka was a real cliff-hanger. It swung every day, ever session, every hour before India won 2-1 yesterday (1st September).

I am surprised that this exciting series was not shown live on TV in Australia. It was neither on free to air nor on pay TV. Why was the Sri Lanka- Pakistan Test series televised in Australia in June-July this year on Foxtel and not the just concluded Sri Lanka – India Test series?

All three Tests between India and Sri Lanka were thrillers providing fluctuating finishes. I was glued to the CricInfo website following every ball from their expert team.

After India won this exhilarating series ”“ their first series win in four years ”“ India’s new captain Virat Kohli said at the Media Conference:

“Being 0-1 down was never easy. I was told it has never been done [to win after being down 0-1 away from home] and it created a bit of history. Feels nice, especially with such a young team, early in our careers, it is a magnificent milestone, winning here for the first time in 22 years.

“Even the guys who haven’t played, guys like Bhuvi [Bhuvneshwar Kumar] and Varun and Bhajji [Harbhajan], ran around and helped everyone. Feels nice, especially with such a young team, early in our careers. It is a magnificent milestone, winning here for the first time in 22 years.

“But the attitude has been brilliant and Pujara came in after someone was injured and he saw it as an opportunity and not difficulty. That is why we are playing the kind of cricket we are playing… Really proud of the boys.”

Here is how the three-Test series went, from sublime to sublimer!

Trailing India by 192 runs on first innings in the first Test in Galle, Sri Lanka was five wickets down for 95 in their second innings ”“ still trailing India by 97 runs. An innings defeat looked certain. But Dinesh Chandimal scored a magnificent 162 not out added 225 runs for the sixth wicket with Lahiru Thirimanne (44) and SL ended up winning the Test by 63 runs.

India spoilt Sri Lankan legend Kumar Sangakkara’s farewell Test in Colombo (PSS) by winning the second Test by 278 runs to level the series one-all.

India eventually won by two Tests to one but the hosts Sri Lanka fought all the way, hats off to their captain Angelo Mathews who batted courageously in the final Test at Colombo SSC bringing his country close to an unexpected victory.

Requiring 385 to win, SL was in huge trouble at 4 for 74 and then 5 for 107. But cometh the hour and cometh the men; Mathews (110 runs) and Kusal Perera (70). They added 135 heroic runs for the sixth wicket, making the impossible look probable.

Just then Indian bowlers ”“ fast bowler Ishant Sharma and carom ball spinner Ravichandran Ashwin ”“ took vital wickets and India was victorious by 117 runs.

It was India’s first away series win in four years and their first in Sri Lanka in 22 years.

There never was a dull minute as the lower order batsmen from both countries batted skilfully after most of their top-order batsmen floundered.

Cheteshwar Pujara, omitted in the first two Tests, batted skilfully. And he would have been dropped in the series-deciding final Test at Colombo (PSS) if the openers Murali Vijay and Shikhar Dhawan were fit.

Opening the batting, Pujara carried his bat in this Test, remaining unbeaten with 145 when India scored 312. He became the fourth Indian to carry his bat after Sunil Gavaskar 127 out of 286 v. Pakistan at Faizalabad in 1982-83; Virender Sehwag 201 out of 329 v. Sri Lanka at Galle in 2008 and Rahul Dravid 146 out of 300 v. England at The Oval in 2011.

Despite eight centuries it was a bowlers’ series. The highest opening stand by either team in this series was 15 runs. This is the lowest stand to be the top opening partnership in a three-Test series in the history of cricket.

Not surprisingly, the Player of the Series was a bowler; India’s Ashwin who captured most wickets (21 at 18.09) including a 10 wicket haul in the first Test in Galle. Also India’s tall quickie Ishant Sharma took his 200th Test wicket during the final Test.

A rare series win overseas despite injuries to their star openers Vijay and Dhawan. Is this the dawn of a new era for Indian cricket?


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