Dambulla: With the sight of two members of Team India's support staff jogging around the outfield at Rangiri Stadium at 8.10pm last night along with a group of players, it explains the bizarre events on day two of this year’s Asia Cup.
Fitness trainer Paddy Upton and bowling coach, Eric Simons, gave the impression they were in training for one of the famous family fun-run marathon events that are part of the winter scene in far off South Africa. No doubt, having watched India polish off Bangladesh in their opening game of the event by six wickets far earlier than expected, they felt the exercise was worth it.
What gave it that extra whacky twist is how it was taking place while the post match presentation went on after India made a genuine meal of an outing that lasted 64.3 overs and the game will be remembered more for Virender Sehwag’s bowling than batting skills.
It was his career best four wickets for six runs in a spell of 17 balls that effectively put the skids under Bangladesh who battled with conditions as the India vice-captain enjoyed himself at the expense of the neighbouring nation.
While Bangladesh captain Shakib Al Hasan made the right call and decided to bat first, the openers, Tamim Iqbal and Imrul Kayes applied some strange batting tactics. They were looking only for boundaries or running twos, but eschewed running singles that were there for the taking.
The fizz went out of the Bangladesh innings when Tamim went at the end of the third over, for had he settled in, they could have made a contest of the game. There were also a couple of umpiring decisions by Billy Doctrove that carried elements of doubt, while not at blatant as that given against Mahela Jayawardene on Tuesday night against Pakistan.
As he engineered the Bangladesh slide at the bottom end of the innings, the Sehwag smile broadened with the fall of each wicket and the lower-order implosion left coach Jamie Siddons with a lot to mull over, despite the views of Shakib that Bangladesh still had a chance to make an impression in the tournament. But a score of 167 in 34.5 overs was never going to be enough in such conditions.
India came into the tournament under a cloud. Their form in the Zimbabwe triangular left the side, made up largely of bench strength players and those on the fringe of the senior squad struggling to make an impact. There was also, the way both Sehwag and Gautam Gambhir struggled against the quicker bowlers.
Gambhir argued at the post-match media conference that while he didn’t have a great T20 series in the Caribbean, there is nothing wrong with his form in the longer format. It is a matter of adjustment.
"It was a little tough with ball moving around at first, but I will say this was the perfect pitch to find my form again," he said. "I enjoyed the innings as I had to graft for the runs. I know there are those who feel I was fortunate to play a team like Bangladesh first and not perhaps Sri Lanka or Pakistan, who have quicker bowlers."
Gambhir added that he found it not easy to bat under the lights, which is the complaint Lasith Malinga made of how fielding was not always that easy, and in some cases there are gaps between the lights.
With the lights failing to come on top full strength after India began their innings, play was halted for bad light. An ironic twist how a day/night match can be stopped for bad light, but this is one of the anomalies. Gambhir was batting at the time with Virat Kohli when the innings was halted with the umpires offering the light to the batsmen.
While Gambhir struggle to find his touch on the slow surface, his footwork was assured most of the time and seemed to pick up the spinners easily enough. An innings of 82 at a runrate of 81.18 may not be that fast, but under the circumstances, he will be quite happy with the evening’s work.
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