Nic Pothas was severe in his assessment of Sri Lanka's performance in the second Test against India in Nagpur. He questioned the approach of the batsmen and said the defeat by an innings and 239 runs was “hugely disappointing”.
After Sri Lanka lost as many as nine wickets in just over a session on Monday (November 27) – many of them to rash shots – to succumb to its heaviest Test defeat ever, the interim coach said there would have to be repercussions.
“Whether I asked them to make 61% of (the runs) in boundaries, no. When the percentage of your score is so high in boundaries against a high-quality attack you are going to get into a lot of trouble,” said Pothas. “India scored 610 and their boundary percentage was 37. We are talking about the top batters in the world. If 37% is good enough for them then it sure should be good enough for us.”
Pothas made it very clear that the batsmen were not playing to a plan and that the blame for the way things panned out – Sri Lanka was bowled out for 166 in its second innings in just 49.3 overs – lay squarely on them.
“You can talk all you want to, you can plan a lot, but at the end of the day you’ve got to execute. As a player, your currency is runs, wickets, and catches. You can do all you like but if you are not producing them obviously there will be repercussions,” said Pothas.
“(It’s) hugely disappointing because of the amount of work that goes in behind the scenes. It’s embarrassing. Players should be embarrassed in their own performances. Practising in the nets means nothing if you don't go out and put runs on the board.”
Pothas showered praise on the Indian bowlers, who managed to excel even though conditions weren't as helpful. Pothas showered praise on the Indian bowlers, who managed to excel even though conditions weren't as helpful.
While upset with his batsmen, Pothas showered praise on the Indian bowlers, who managed to excel even though conditions weren't as helpful as the scoreboard suggested. “They are in that position because they worked for a long time to ensure they got a strong bench,” offered Pothas. “If you are going to be successful at the top of any sport your bench is important and India has a very strong bench. Not only have they got pace but a huge amount of skill.”
Despite the results, Pothas stressed that playing a side as strong as India twice in six months could only help Sri Lanka in the long run. “I firmly believe that if you play a team like India in such a short space of time, the guys with the right characters will get better into the future. When things get tough, some people fall off the bus, some get better. The key is to make sure we are picking people or more people that are likely to stay on the bus when the pressure goes up,” he said.
“Cricket is a game of chess when you play a team like India. If one team makes a move, you better have a counter move ... At the moment, we have got a few in our change room who keep making the same move and losing pieces off the chess board.”
If Sri Lanka is to challenge India in the third and final Test in New Delhi, Angelo Mathews will have to step his game up as a senior member. Apart from a half-century in the first dig in Kolkata, the batsman has endured three failures, but had the coach's backing. “Having injuries, it is tough when you are not playing continuously, especially to try and strike a rhythm when you do come back,” explained Pothas. “Angelo is a quality international cricketer. He is hurting at the moment because he has an immense amount of pride. I have no doubt that with his ability he will come up with some answers.”