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1st Test: decoding India's fall from grace against Sri Lanka at Galle

Rohan Raj | Updated on: 13 February 2017, 3:42 IST

In a sensational turnaround on the fourth day of the 1st Test, India capitulated to a shambolic 63-run defeat against Sri Lanka, who took a 1-0 lead in the three-match series following an emphatic win at Galle on 15 August.

Despite taking a sizeable lead of 192 runs in the first innings, Virat Kohli's men failed to achieve the moderate total of 176 runs to trail 0-1 in the three-match series against the Lankans. The Indian team, in their second innings, was bowled out for a mere 112 runs - their lowest score in or against Sri Lanka in Test cricket.

Left arm spinner Rangana Herath took seven wickets for 48 runs and Tharindu Kaushal registered figures of 3/47, choking the life out of India's run-chase in just 41.5 overs and wrapping up the Test match in three-and-a-half days.

Angelo Mathew-led Sri Lanka scripted one of most remarkable turnarounds in recent Test history and came back from the dead to turn the tables on the Indian team, who had no one but themselves to blame for the debacle.

The Indians, regarded as good players of spin bowling, showed a shocking lack of technique and foot-work on a pitch that had no real demons apart from the obvious assistance to the slow bowlers. Ajinkya Rahane (36) and Shikhar Dhawan (28) were the only two batsmen who could hang around for some time as India lost six wickets for just 55 runs in the pre-lunch session.

Rahul fails to emulate Murali Vijay's success

Going into the first Test at Galle, Team India was handed a crucial blow after their star-opener Murali Vijay was ruled out of the match after failing to recover from a right hamstring injury. However, Vijay's injury provided the much-needed opportunity to young KL Rahul at the top order.

Having scored a hundred in his last Test and proved his mettle in the warm-up game against Sri Lanka President's XI, Rahul was expected to fill the shoes of Vijay alongside Shikhar Dhawan at the opening slot. But the 23-year-old failed to make his presence felt, getting out cheaply at the scores of 7 and 5 in the two innings.

The Karnataka batsman got out lbw in both the innings with poor foot-work to blame. He was rapped on the pads in the first innings by Dhammika Prasad, while Rangana Herath's spin proved a little too much for Rahul to negate in the second innings.

Rohit's poor form continues in Tests

After being selected ahead of Cheteshwar Pujara for the No. 3 spot in the Indian batting line-up, Rohit Sharma failed to repay the faith of his captain Virat Kohli and batting coach Sanjay Bangar after a poor knock of nine runs in the first innings and a paltry four runs in the second.

The Mumbai batsman looked all at sea against the spin bowling of Rangana Herath who broke through his defence to rattle the stumps in the second innings. At a time when India needed its No. 3 batsman to steady the innings, Rohit could only last for a mere 16 balls, scoring just one boundary. In the first innings, Angelo Mathews had ended Rohit's innings that lasted only 24 balls.

The 28-year-old has struggled to score runs in the longer version of the sport. In his last five Tests, Sharma has scored 213 runs including just one fifty. His last Test hundred dates back to 2013 when he smashed an unbeaten 111 against West Indies in Mumbai.

Team India's batting coach had recently said that India needs Rohit Sharma at the No. 3 spot if they intend to score over 300 runs in a one day, but looking at the Mumbai batsman's performance, it seems that Cheteshwar Pujara would have been a better option for the visitors.

'The Turbanator' fails to deliver for India

Harbhajan Singh, who had the backing of skipper Virat Kohli, was almost non-existent at Galle where the pitch provided fair bit of assistance to the spinners. Harbhajan bowled 25 overs in the match and took just one wicket on a track where his teammate Ravichandran Ashwin bagged 10 wickets.

Far from being a threat, Harbhajan failed to make use of the conditions and looked flat in both length and body language. The 35-year-old seemed more desperate than eager as the pressure to perform and retain his place in the Indian side must have crossed his mind.

While Ashwin kept troubling the opposition batsmen by flighting the ball more often, the veteran spinner continued to bowl a flat trajectory which was glaringly inefficient. The only delivery that brought forth the Harbhajan of old was when his arm ball whizzed past the bat of Dinesh Chandimal, who nodded in admiration.

Five-bowler strategy backfires

India's ploy of going into the game with five specialist bowlers at the cost of sacrifing a batsman backfired badly as they did not have the batting firepower to chase even a modest target. The middle-order lacked spine and succumbed to the pressure.

Murali Vijay's injury ahead of the first Test had already weakened the Indian batting and Virat Kohli's decision to play five specialist bowlers meant that the tourists were short of a frontline batsman. Rohit Sharma, who's presence was expected to strengthen the batting at No. 3, failed miserably and so did the Indian team.

Barring Ajinkya Rahane and Shikhar Dhawan, none of the other specialist batsmen could get a score in double digits as India lost six wickets for just 55 runs in the pre-lunch session. If India struggled in the batting department, the availability of an extra bowler failed to lift the side.

Playing both Amit Mishra and Harbhajan Singh, especially at the expense of an additional batsman, proved too costly for the Indian team. The duo bowled 14 overs between them in the first innings, but neither were particularly needed, with Ravichandran Ashwin running through the Lankan batting order.

In the second innings, the duo bowled 34 overs between them, with Mishra picking up three wickets and Harbhajan taking just one. Harbhajan rarely looked threatening and leaked 4.29 runs per over. And after India's forgetful outing at Galle, it seems that skipper Virat Kohli should have played an extra batsman instead of either one of them.

First published: 15 August 2015, 6:26 IST
Rohan Raj @ro4an_raj

After a poor stint in gully-cricket quashed his hopes of turning pro, Rohan moved away from the playing field and began criticising those who were still on it. Football eases his mind and watching City paint Manchester blue is his elusive dream. When not talking, thinking or dreaming about sports, Rohan can be found listening to EDM or watching movies. A sports correspondent at Catch News, he has previously worked with Hindustan Times, Daily Bhaskar and India Today.