Dambulla: If India’s batting was in disarray on the field here at Rangiri Stadium tonight, Sri Lanka Cricket are also in chaos, but in their cosy environs at Maitland Place.
Just as India arrived unprepared for this 20-day limited overs tournament, that includes island hosts Sri Lanka and visitors New Zealand, media were bemused by the low-profile showcasing of the event. Neither the non-elected members of the government appointed ad-hoc committee known by the euphemism Interim Committee fail to turn up, to represent SLC, nor did any of the sponsors.
While the board was represented by the SLC additional chief executive, a title that confused most Indian journalists, the absence of SLC chairman D S de Silva and secretary Nishantha (I’m Mr Secretary) Ranatunga was questioned but no adequate reasons were given.
The low-profile showcasing of the event has surprised many here in Dambulla.
All this of course doesn’t excuse India’s most pathetic performance, and their lack of preparation showed in this all-round performance.
As it is, India's lack of preparation for this limited overs tournament in the Sri Lanka heartland has been ruthlessly exposed by a determined New Zealand side led by Ross Taylor.
As winners of the Asia Cup at the same venue seven weeks ago, they arrived here fresh from a Test victory and shared series success in Colombo last Saturday. But almost 74 hours later, they crashed to defeat by a humiliating 200 runs in the middle of the 30th over.
Talk about deception. From the moment Suresh Raina meekly surrendered his wicket in a catching-practice shot in the 12th over of the innings, and the scrambling run out of the captain MS Dhoni signalled India demise in a night of shame and lazy strokeplay.
Forgotten in the middle of this embarrassing carnage is how the Kiwis, wobbling at 28 for three after the Kane Williamson nine-ball duck on his ODI debut, applied basics and the skipper Ross Taylor and all-rounder Scott Styris put together what turned out to be a match winning partnership of 190 for the fourth wicket. In fact, the Black Caps' stand-in captain Taylor (95) and Styris (89) had individual totals higher than India’s lamentable innings of 88.
The Kiwis are missing their normal captain Daniel Vettori and Brendan McCullum yet showed they are going to provide sine entertainment over the next 18 or so days.
The Taylor/Styris partnership was based on sound ODI batting technique and skills with both employing typical sweeps, pulls, the occasional slog-sweep, reverse sweep, drives and cuts. It was entertainment all right and the India bowlers were given a lesson of length bowling. Even Ashish Nehra struggled at times to force the Kiwis to make mistakes on a pitch that was on the soft side.
They picked off some quality shots and were quick to take advantage of anything loose, which happened often Taylor in particular was in good touch. He works the ball around well, and considering he has faced little genuine bowling since the T20 games against Sri Lanka in Miami back in May, he was in quick form.
While man-of-the-match Taylor is not complaining, after all, India were thought to be the better side on paper, although with players like selectors pet Dinesh Karthik it still makes you wonder what are they attempting to achieve, New Zealand looked the fresher side.
It is the old story of getting Virender Sehwag early and other wickets will follow and in this case, with batsmen offering slip catching practice with Taylor taking four catches, making them look so simple.
Yet from the moment Kylie Mills had Sehwag troubled by the shorter ball, the Indian opener was struggling.
One thing is certain, there is a lot of hard work ahead for India over the next six days to get their act together before playing Sri Lanka on Monday, August 16. Maybe too, Eric Simons might want to learn how to bowl the right length on this venue from Jacob Oram and Daryl Tuffey. He couldn’t do any worse as he still seems confused by the length of balls to be bowled at Sri Lankan venues.