MOHALI: It was supposed to be a milestone Test match for three stalwarts in the Indian team – Virat Kohli played his 100th Test and crossed the 8000-run mark; Rohit Sharma led India in a Test for the first time and on Sunday R Ashwin surpassed Kapil Dev‘s tally of 434 Test wickets.
DAY 3: AS IT HAPPENED | SCORECARD
Yet, when India wrapped up the first Test against Sri Lanka, winning the match by an innings and 222 runs, the man who imposed himself on the game was Ravindra Jadeja. His match figures of 9/87 and his unbeaten 175 the previous day were the driving force behind India completing the rout in three days.
When he cleaned up Lahiru Kumara in Lanka’s first innings to complete a five-wicket haul on the third morning, he became the third Indian to score 150 runs and take five wickets in a Test match after Vinoo Mankad and Polly Umrigar. That he is the first Indian to do so in nearly 60 years is further evidence of his calibre as an outstanding allrounder. Jadeja ensured there was no respite for a Sri Lankan team which can at best be described as ordinary.
The problems in Sri Lankan cricket were cruelly exposed as they got bowled out twice for 174 and 178 inside four sessions. On a pitch that didn’t offer raging turn or seam movement, India’s pacers and spinners gave no breathing space to the batters. Pathum Nissanka’s unbeaten 61 in the first innings and Niroshan Dickwella’s unbeaten 51 in the second innings were aberrations in a batting line-up that was susceptible all through.
For the Indian camp, which has been flaunting its reserves for over a year, it was a Test to initiate transition. Jadeja may have been the face of this Test, but this series has greater significance. The new-look middle-order minus Cheteshwar Pujara and Ajinkya Rahane will keep the team management anxious till they manage to settle down.
Hanuma Vihari at No. 3, Rishabh Pant at 5 and Shreyas Iyer at 6 is not a set template yet. “We are not so certain about anything at the moment. We are understanding what is right at this particular time and moving forward. In time to come you will realise who is the No. 3 player for us. At the moment it is Vihari and he did pretty well. He will continue to do that in the next Test as well,” Rohit said after the match.
Rebuilding a team at a time when it is poised delicately in the World Test Championship could be tricky. Rohit explained: “It’s not just about 11 players. It’s also about those waiting outside, wanting to get their opportunities. It is about creating the bench strength which is what the future of Indian cricket will hold. It’s relatively a very new team in all three formats. Two of our stalwarts in Ajinkya and Pujara are missing out, Saha is not here, Ishant is not here.
“For me, what is important is how I approach those guys who are sitting outside and how I can get them in a good mindset. We will try and back them as much as possible so that at the end of the day they know ‘I got my opportunity. If I didn’t do well I’m still happy as long as there was clarity about my role.'”