The India-Lanka two-Test series will be remembered for two things -- the records set by the Sri Lankans in the first Test and India's inability to chase an eminently gettable total in the second. As in South Africa and the West Indies earlier this year, the policy of safety first did not yield dividends. Ranatunge's declaration on day four of the second Test was a challenging one but as usual India could not pick up the gauntlet. If Tendulkar is so cautious at this age, how will he react when he is a few years older and more set in his ways?
The fact is, neither side had the bowlers to get the other side out twice. And that, more than anything, was responsible for the draws. Lanka have two good bowlers in Vaas and Muralitharan but the remainder are not Test class. They can bowl well and restrict batsman in a one-day competition but over a longer period their limitations are exposed. This is in the main responsible for their poor Test record. The emphasis on one-day cricket has led to more batsmen coming along and bowlers being neglected apart from those who can restrict the opposition.
The same goes for the Lankan fielding. In a one-day match, it is always effective and sometimes borders on the spectacular. But there were horrible lapses during both Tests. The team was not physically able to produce good fielding over the five days and paid for it dearly. Had they got Azharuddin on the final day of the second Test -- they dropped him thrice -- they could well have recorded their second win over India after a gap of 12 years. The team may be fit but concentration was lacking on the field and the Indian batsmen benefitted no end.
India has its own problems; there are no bowlers who can together take the 20 wickets required to win a Test. The bowling cupboard is more bare than that of the Lankans. It goes a step further -- the bowlers were treated with disdain. The bowlers have gone soft by years of bowling on doctored wickets at home; the surefit of cricket has also played its role and the quickies look like tired trundlers. The spinners are as ineffective. Suddenly, India is beginning to look a very mediocre side and if it were not for the opposition also lacking good bowlers, the second Test could well have ended differently.
Thus it is not surprising that both captains resorted to slow over rates to try and prevent the opposition from scoring fast. Both Tendulkar and Ranatunge employed the same disgusting tactics and this has cost some players dear. Those who have advertisements plastered on every conceivable part of their apparel will not feel the pinch, but to others losing 195 percent of the match fee will certainly rankle. The question must be asked: is this the way one avoids losing? And is that the aim of Test cricket?
Australia, which is undoubtedly the top Test team at the moment, has seen every one of its last 14 Tests, bar one, end in a result. They have played with that aim in mind, else they could have got away with some dreary draws. And they are the best team because they have played precisely this kind of cricket. Positive cricket has never harmed a team's fortunes; it has to become part and parcel of a team's thinking. Within reasonable bounds, of course; nobody would ask a team to commit suicide as a result.
As far as India is concerned, there will be no time for any post-mortem; the team now enters a period when it will play more one-day games than are good for the health. The opponents will be Pakistan for the most part and money will be the one overriding concern. Even the question of having a new coach after the present one, Madan Lal, proved that he is not fit for the job, will be shelved until the end of September when his contract runs out. For now all that matters is the one-day racket and the profits that accrue.