Sri Lankans do get under the skin of the Indians! “Let’s start at the very beginning. A very good place to start.” it’s not do-re-mi, but the Prudential World Cup of 1979 and the Sri Lanka-India game at Old Trafford. Skipper Tennakoon sat out the game, but no matter. The reliable trio of Duleep Mendis [...]


Timely reminder of memorable Lankan victories

India-Sri Lanka Cricket

Sri Lankans do get under the skin of the Indians! “Let’s start at the very beginning. A very good place to start.” it’s not do-re-mi, but the Prudential World Cup of 1979 and the Sri Lanka-India game at Old Trafford. Skipper Tennakoon sat out the game, but no matter. The reliable trio of Duleep Mendis (64), Sidath Wettimuni (67) and Roy Dias (50) did not fail. Mohinder Amaranath (3-40) was intriguing and miserly.

The Indians could only muster 191. Twenties from Sunil Gavasker and G. Vishvanath, and 30s from Gaikwad and Vengsarkar were totally inadequate. D.S. de Silva (3-29) was the pick, while seamers Tony Opatha and the late D.L.S. de Silva accounted for 5 wickets, as the Sri Lankans triumphed by 47 runs. Significantly, this was an instance of a non-Test playing country beating a senior in the Test arena.

September 1985. Appropriately, the Saravanamuttu Stadium was the historic venue where Sri Lanka, led by mercurial Mendis, humbled the might of India, to record her 1st Test win. Sri Lanka made 385, to which Amal Silva (111), Madugalle (54), Dias (95) and Mendis (51) contributed lavishly. Chetan Sharma collected 5-118, but was upstaged by the batters.

India replied with 244. Srikanth 64, Gavaskar 52 and Mohinder 60, put their best foot forward and to an extent, coped with the hostility of Rumesh Ratnayake (4-76). Comforted by the 141-run cushion, Dias 60 not out and Aravinda de Silva (75) turned the heat on their opponents, as the home team raced to 206-3.

The victory target of 346 was never on. Kapil Dev (78) kept his head when all around him were losing theirs. Admirable Rumesh was the wrecker once more with figures of 5-49. Amal Silva too, had an excellent and memorable, Test, with a century and 9 victims behind the stumps.

Eden Gardens in Calcutta was the scene of the semifinal between Sri Lanka and India at the Wills World Cup in February 1996. Aravinda (66), Mahanama (55) and 30s from the skipper and Tillekeratne made certain the Sri Lankan bowlers had a total to defend. Suddenly, the pitch began to turn and bite. Good players of spin though they are, the Indians faltered after Sachin Tendulkar (65) was used out by Sanath Jayasuriya and stumped down the leg side by Romesh Kaluwitharana. Replying to 251-8, the Indians had reached 120-8 in the 35th over when the enraged crowd took over. Match Referee Clive Lloyd awarded the match to Sri Lanka by default. A few days later, Arjuna Ranatunga’s team performed the miracle against Mark Taylor’s Aussies.

The Sri Lankans were obviously on a roll, and the Test at the R. Premadasa Stadium in August 1997, must still be rankling the Indians. Centuries from Tendulkar, Mohamed Azharuddin and Navjot Singh Siddhu propelled the visitors to a massive 537-8. That was in hindsight, the calm before the storm. Sri Lanka replied with a mammoth 952-6. Jayasuriya had a triple, Mahanama a double and Aravinda a single – centurions, all of them. Ranatunga rubbed salt into the wound with 86. Debutant Mahela Jayawardena gave early hint of a long and dazzling career with 66. This wasn’t a Test win, but to all intents and purposes, it was as good as one.

Sharjah, October 2000, provided the Sri Lankans a double delight at the expense of the Indians. Sri Lanka totaled 294-5, bolstered by hundreds from Marvan Atapattu and Mahela Jayawardena, Sachin Tendulkar made 61 in India’s reply of 226. But the glamour was reserved for Muttiah Muralitharan who snared 7-30.

A few days later came the final. This time Jayasuriya took the breath away (and the game as well) with a whirlwind 189, Russel Arnold wisely played in the shadow of the Master Blaster, as he worked his way to 52. Chaminda Vaas (5-14) and Muralitharan (3-6) called India’s bluff as they were skittled like 9 pins, for an embarrassing 245-run defeat.

Ups and downs, twists and turns and the glorious uncertainties were all on view at the opening Test in Galle in 2015. Shot out by Ravichandran Ashwin (6-46) for a meager 183 (Angelo Mathews 64, Dinesh Chandimal 59), the Indians then totaled 375 for a lead of 192.

Kumar Sangakkara (40), Mathews (39), Lahiru Thirimanne (44) and Jehan Mubarak (49) all made small contributions. But the performance of the match came from Dinesh Chandimal, who made a mind boggling, unbeaten 162, treating R. Ashwin, Amit Mishra and the others with batsmanship bordering on brilliance. More importantly, it turned impending defeat into glorious victory. Pursuing a gettable target of 183. The Indians succumbed to 112 and defeat by 63 runs, unable to counter the wishes of Rangana Herath (7-48).

Coming to more recent times, Sri Lanka really set the cat among the pigeons with a stunning 4-wickets win over Virat Kohli’s men at the Oval in the Champions Trophy. Skipper Mathews master-minded this win, while Asela Gunaratne came up with a blinder. This defeat put paid to the view that the strong Indian team was invincible. Not surprisingly, Sarfraz Ahmed and company took note and crafted their epic win in the final. Over a team that had not quite got over that seismic shock.

Statistically, India has invariably been ahead of Sri Lanka in both these formats. Yet, if the Sri Lankans can summon up memories of these past wins, they should make a match of it against the No.1 Test side. To be sure, the much-maligned Sri Lankan team lacks players of the stature of Aravinda, Jayasuriya, Vaas and Muralitharan. By the same token, India too no longer has the services of Tendulkar, Kapil Dev, Gavaskar and Amarnath.

Whether it be a Kohli or an Ashwin at the other end 22 yards away, the Sri Lankans should realize that it’s all in the mind. Severe odds have been, and can be overcome, if the team sets their minds to it.

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