India’s last Test tour in Sri Lanka in 2001 is not remembered extensively because of a variety of reasons. Most ...

Wednesday, July 23, 2021

'Murali bowled like a dream'

Sai Mohan

Mumbai: India’s last Test tour in Sri Lanka in 2001 is not remembered extensively because of a variety of reasons. Most importantly because India fielded a second-string side due to injuries to key players such as Sachin Tendulkar, VVS Laxman, Javagal Srinath, Anil Kumble and Ashish Nehra.

The only saving grace for the Indian team was the opening pair of Shiv Sundar Das and Sadagoppan Ramesh. India started of on the wrong note in the very first Test match, losing by a thumping 10-wicket margin. According to Ramesh, the primary reason for the humiliating loss was the fact that India missed Kumble’s services.

“We obviously missed Kumble since Harbhajan was emerging on the scene but wasn’t confident of leading the spin-attack,” Ramesh told 1985 Recap | 1993 Recap | 1997 Recap Scorecards: India in Sri Lanka 2001


  • When Sri Lanka registered a thumping 10-wicket victory at Galle in the first Test, they had beaten India for only the second time in their 21-match Test history at the time. They had not beaten India in a Test match since the 1985 series under Duleep Mendis’s captaincy.
  • During the second Test at Kandy, Muralitharn scored the only half-century of his Test career. He went on to score 67 runs off just 65 balls – a knock that included 5 boundaries and 3 sixes.
  • When Sri Lanka completed the innings and 77-run victory at the SSC in the third and final Test, they ended a 16-month spell without a Test series victory.
  • Thilan Samaraweera scored a century on Test debut during the series-decider at Colombo.
  • Aravinda de Silva described Ganguly's side as the "weakest Indian team to play on our soil" in a newspaper interview.
  • It was Sri Lanka’s first Test series victory against India in over 16 years and the victory in the third Test of an innings/77 runs equalled their largest-ever victory at the time.
  • Muttiah Muralitharan claimed 23 wickets from the three Tests. In comparison, Harbhajan Singh managed only 4 wickets from the same number of matches 
  • This was surprising because just a few months prior to this series, Harbhajan had bowled himself into history books with his match-winning spells against Australia at home.

    ”Harbhajan was obviously high on confidence after we had beaten Australia at home but he was under too much pressure, especially since the media was comparing him with Muralitharan and building a battle between them.”

    The inexperience in the Indian middle-order made the then Indian coach John Wright base his strategy around the opening pair of Das and Ramesh. In his short international career, Ramesh was a naturally flamboyant player but in this series he was not the same.

    “I was told by my coach John Wright to put my head down and bat throughout this tour. It was an obvious game plan and I was told to bat out time. Shiv Sundar Das gave me fantastic company and I thought we formed a steady combination.”

    The high point of the Test series for the visitors came when they managed to square the series at Kandy in the second Test. This was despite the fact that pace spearhead Javagal Srinath had to return home due to a finger injury.

    “When everyone was writing us off it was a great feeling to chase a target of 264 runs against Muralitharn in his prime. The key was the way Ganguly and Dravid tackled Murali. The win really lifted the morale of the team.”

    But India were brought back down to earth in the series-deciding Test at Colombo. After Das and Ramesh put on a 100-plus stand, Murali weaved his magic to leave the Indians in a spin.

    “We lost the Test match because Muralitharan bowled like a dream and picked up 8 wickets on the very first day. That is where we lost the initiative and the series.

    As a parting shot Ramesh recalls what he believes was the best ball he ever faced, during the second innings of the third Test match.

    “The delivery pitched on and around the off stump area, spun viciously and clipped my leg stump. I could not believe what happened.”