By Nishad Pai Vaidya
It was an inspired comeback by the Sri Lankans in the second One-Day International (ODI) as they steamrolled the Indian challenge. The tourists threatened to carry on from the first ODI when their openers got off to a great start, but Thisara Perera ensured that there weren’t any Virat Kohli or Virender Sehwag-like heroics. In partnership with Angelo Mathews, Perera sparked a dramatic Indian collapse that laid a strong foundation for a Sri Lankan win. The manner in which India were crushed would give Sri Lanka a huge psychological boost ahead of the ODIs at Colombo. However, they are moving into a territory where India have happy memories in the recent past.
Since 2008, India and Sri Lanka have played each other too many times – so much so that the contest doesn’t generate any interest or hype. There have been numerous bilateral series, a few tri-series and not forget encounters in tournaments like the Asia Cup and the 2011 World Cup. Premadasa Stadium, Colombo is the home of Sri Lankan one-day cricket and it is no surprise that India have played numerous matches there since 2008. However, they haven’t visited the venue since 2009, but can derive hope from their last outings there.
India have been victorious in six of their last nine ODIs against Sri Lanka at Premadasa. In August 2008, the two teams clashed in an ODI series immediately after the Ajantha Mendis-dominated Test matches. Not many people had given India a chance to emerge victorious as the mystery spinner had cast a web around their batsmen. However, India managed to win two of their games at Premadasa to clinch the series and exorcise the demon of Mendis.
Early in 2009, the Indian team was on the ascendancy as they were coming off a comprehensive 5-0 rout over England at home. On their return to the Emerald Isle, the performance was even more dominating as they won four consecutive games. Premadasa isn’t a wicket where one would expect too many scores over 300, but India overhauled the mark on two occasions. They repeated a similar feat in the final of the Compaq Cup (the third team was New Zealand) against Sri Lanka where Sachin Tendulkar’s century put the total out of the hosts’ reach. Thus, three silverwares in the cupboard would motivate Mahendra Singh Dhoni and his men even if it was three years ago.
Toss is a huge factor in games at Premadasa. Captains would hope and pray for a positive result at the toss as that could tremendously affect the outcome of the game. Winning the toss and batting first is an absolute no-brainer. As discussed in a previous article (written after the Sri Lanka-Pakistan series earlier this year) teams batting first have won on 61.84% of the day-night games hosted at the venue in question. It is a clear indicator that chasing under lights isn’t the best option and it is a huge task to overhaul targets.
If one dissects India’s recent record at Premadasa, the six victories have come when they have batted first. They have successfully defended totals around the 250 mark – ones that aren’t considered much of a challenge in modern one-day cricket. Two off their three defeats came in day-night games – during which they collapsed and handed Sri Lanka comfortable victories.
Dhoni hasn’t been the luckiest with the coin and his two consecutive wins in this series have made the cricket fan chuckle a bit. He needs luck by his side at Premadasa considering the history discussed above. However, chasing may be difficult, but isn’t all-together impossible. In the fifth ODI of the Sri Lanka-Pakistan series, Mathews’s fantastic knock defied the record books and clinched victory for the hosts. Would history prevail or the spirit of the cricketers alter its course?
(Nishad Pai Vaidya is a club-level cricketer with an analytic mind and a sharp eye. It was this sharpness which spotted a wrong replay in IPL4 resulting in Sachin Tendulkar’s dismissal. Some of his analytical pieces have come in for high praise from cerebral former cricketers. Nishad can also be followed on Twitter)