India were so clinical in the cross-format trouncing of Sri Lanka, that Virat Kohli’s side has drawn comparisons with perhaps the most successful rugby team in the world: the All Blacks.
Kohli and his team have largely been confident in public but have veered away from effusive self-praise, nor have they dwelt much on the paucity of Sri Lanka’s performance. Sri Lanka’s own interim head coach Nic Pothas, however, has showered compliments upon the opposition, after his team succumbed to their ninth consecutive defeat of the tour – this one in the sole T20.
“You look at their team and they are very All Black-like,” Pothas said. “There’s a lot of respect for the facilities and there’s a lot of respect for the opposition. They are very ruthless in the way they go about their work. Their work ethic is immense. They are what a lot of teams aspire to be. The most important thing for us is learning from our mistakes, but most importantly: learning from them.”
Chief among Sri Lanka’s tormentors, as ever, was Kohli, who has lavishly walloped Sri Lanka in almost every series he has played against them. Where once there was some animosity towards him on the island, that has now been replaced by substantial respect. Kohli himself had also spoken well of the Sri Lankan public on this tour – even though at one point, an angry crowd disrupted an ODI for over half-an-hour.
He was again in stirring form in the tour-ending T20, initially defusing the tenseness of the early overs of the chase before going on to make 82 off 54 balls, all of which sent India pelting towards their seven-wicket victory. It was his fourth half-century in as many T20 innings against Sri Lanka. The performance was worth a few glowing words from Pothas.
“You see how Virat runs between the wickets, and you see the respect he commands on the field as a leader – he’s a role model to people and he pulls people with him,” he said. “When you look at the way they go about their work and the culture that Virat has created within that team, it’s very, very impressive.”
Though once a player who could was considered to be in Kohli’s league – at least in the longest format – Angelo Mathews has experienced a striking dip in results over the past 18 months, in which his batting average has retreated across formats. He could make only seven from five balls on Wednesday before being undone by a sharp MS Dhoni stumping. Mathews had hit two successive fifties in the last two ODIs, but this still only brought his tour tally up to three fifties out of 12 innings.
“It’s a funny one because you need to look at the dynamic,” Pothas said of Mathews. “It’s very tough on Angie as well. When you’re a senior player, obviously the opposition targets you. Then you have that pressure of being a senior player to perform. It’s very, very tough. Angie is a world-class cricketer and I don’t think you can ever judge any person over a short spate of games. We’re all clichéd about it, but form is temporary and Angie is a class cricketer. Outside of being a class cricketer he’s a very, very intelligent man. So he’ll go back, work on it, we’ll have discussions – I have no issues with Angie.”
On the T20 itself, Pothas said he felt Sri Lanka should have scored more than the 170 for 7 they mustered. Having been 99 for 3 in the 12th over, at one stage Sri Lanka seemed to be headed for a score in the range of 190, but, as has often been the case through the tour, a collapse broke their batting momentum. They lost four wickets for 35 runs through the middle overs – all to the spinners Yuzvendra Chahal and Kuldeep Yadav.
“If you looked at how we played, we were probably 15 short of what we could have got on that wicket,” Pothas said. “We probably had a few too many little cameos that we could have dragged on a little bit longer. What we got was probably competitive but when you play a team of such quality, you’re going to have to be very good in the field and with the ball to try and stop 170 being scored.”