While watching the hammering the sri lankan bowlers were receiving from the Indian batsmen on a flat bellerive oval track my mind wandered back a few years when sri lanka always had the mental edge over india in important matches.
In 1996 world cup sri lanka managed to get india 120/8 infront of 100,000 fanatical indian fans before the win was given to sri lanka by default.
In 2007 when sri lanka dumped a anxious Indian team out of the world cup.
In the 2008 asia cup when ajantha mendis announced himself to the world with a magical bowling performance.
Those are a few that you can remember as a sri lankan fan.2008 is where it stops for the Lankans since then they’ve lost series to india regularly. The biggest loss was the 2011 world cup final loss to India, after getting a big total on the board the Lankans let the game getaway from them in the field and in the bowling department. This loss you could say can be a big psychological blow to the team.
It is interesting take a look at the sri lankan squad around 2006-2008 and now. We still have the same core group of players.We still have the advantage over india in the fielding department ,our batting is still dependable against india at the worst of times. But Sri lanka’s bowlers who do a very good job against almost all opppostion seem to get unraveled against the Indian batting line-up in pressure situations.One big difference I see when sri lanka play india is that the intensity level of the sri Lankans drops a few levels. Even in the ongoing CB series the players seem too friendly against their Indian counterparts for their own good which can lead to the drop of intensity and focus in the playing field consciously or unconsciously. If we analyse the matches against india in this series we might get a certain idea of this logic.
At perth india was 181/6 in the 36th over chasing 234 all their main batsmen gone sri lanka should have been able to bowl out the two remaining allrounders and the tail.
At Adelaide India required 9 to win, Dhoni vs Malinga two of the best finishers in the world game. sri lanka had their chance to run out Dhoni and lasith malinga dropped the ball .(literally )
The third match sri lanka won easily.
Which brings us to Hobart where india’s mental edge over sri lanka was obvious for everyone to see.Here was a chance for sri lanka to knock india out of a major tournament, five years ago they would have done it easily. Although I wound concede that india have improved their mental game in the last few years in this instance they were at the end of a long and miserable tour and waiting to be sent home.But as I say the Lankans failed all to familiarly to knock india out of the series.Sri lanka put up a great total with the bat India had it all to do 320 in forty overs most neutral fans would say game over.The bowling effort started with sri lanka taking things for granted , as usual there was a lack of intensity in the field which mostly happens against india. india got off to a fantastic start and continued on their way to another emphatic victory over sri lanka 320 in 36 overs.
The question needs to be asked how a batting line up battered by Australia for two months suddenly come up with a performace that defies cricketing logic.If you ask India to name a team they would want to play against at the worst of times they would pick sri lanka in a heartbeat. The reason for this is india are perfectly comfortable playing sri lanka.How did this happen you would ask? I think it has to do with the exposure the Indians get against sri lankan players in the IPL the top Indian players in each franchise will be exposed to what a sri lankan batsmen or bowler would think and do in different situations.I know it’s just T20 but lessons from the shortest format can be applied to the 50 overs game.Take the case of Lasith Malinga who is a super star for the Mumbai Indians and gets paid a lot of money to win them matches.Malinga has one of the hardest actions to pick up in world cricket combine that with his variations and 140+ kmph speed of his bowling he is hard to get away for ten or twelve runs a over.But when virat kholi was smashing malinga around in horbart you have to wonder whether his experience in playing malinga at the IPL helped him in his shot selection and thinking process. This also applies to every top sri lankan player in the IPL .
Sri lanka need to be aware of these factors when playing against india ,what sri lanka can do to get the edge back is be ruthless against india never allow them to be comfortable against sri lanka at any stage of the game.I feel sri lankans are losing to india in the mental battles rather than in the battle of skills.Sri lankas next encounter against india will be in the Asia cup by then hopefully they will have a more aggressive approach against india.