Elated at leading India to the top of the ICC Test rankings, Indian cricket captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni on Sunday said the tough task now is to hold on to the position by becoming more consistent.
“It’s a great moment for us. We have achieved the number one Test ranking in the world, but the real task starts from here. We have to maintain the ranking, especially when it comes to Test cricket. The tough task starts from here,” Dhoni said after India thrashed Sri Lanka by an innings and 24 runs to clinch the three-match series 2-0 and go atop the ICC rankings.
Describing the triumph as a brilliant team effort, the wicketkeeper batsman said the Indians were dominant throughout and lavished praise on explosive opener Virender Sehwag, who set up the win with his blazing 293-run knock in the first innings.
“When we are pushed to the wall, we come out with some special performances. Overall I think it was a terrific team performance in this series. Every batsman, who got in, in this match did his job. Especially Virender Sehwag,” he said.
He also credited the win to pace spearhead Zaheer Khan, who took a five-wicket haul, and a much improved fielding effort.
“We had a big total and could put pressure with close-in fielders. Zaheer is back in the rhythm and it was good to see the fast bowlers do well in India. Zaheer is a very good bowler and he always gets wickets for us whenever the team requires,” Dhoni said.
“There was a bit of reverse swing but not much help to them but they have bowled very well. Our fielding was good. I think we caught nearly everything that came our way. Team has scored in catching. Catching has improved a lot and it has been good in this series,” he said.
Man of the Match and Man of the Series Sehwag, meanwhile, said coach Gary Kirsten’s pep-talk, in which the South African asked him to be a bit patient on the crease, helped him stay focussed during his awe-inspiring knock in the match.
“I have said that it was my third best innings. On two occasions, I have scored triple century. And here I scored 293 runs, so this is my third best innings,” he said.
“Here the wicket was good and coach Kirsten came to me and told me that it’s a good track to bat on like in previous tours of Sri Lanka and New Zealand. You’ll get a big score here if you stay on,” he recalled.
Asked if he came to bat with any specific target, Sehwag said he prefers to keep his mind uncluttered.
“I wasn’t thinking anything; nothing was there on my mind when I came to bat. I was clear, survive new ball, stay on there and then play shots. I think I am good against spin and I can play it well and here I did just that. In this match, I hit bad bowls on my way. I was hitting bad bowls only,” Sehwag said.
The opener said the rise to the top has been a team effort.
“We have a very good team and it’s a team effort and because of everybody’s effort, we have won the series,” he said.
A disappointed Sri Lanka captain Kumar Sangakkara, meanwhile, conceded that his team, which is still to win a Test on Indian soil, was thoroughly outplayed by the hosts.
“It was tough but India outperformed us in all three departments of the game in the last two Tests. In this game, we nearly put 400 but Sehwag came and took the game away from us,” he said.
Sangakkara, who stood tall among the ruins with a fighting 137 in the match, congratulated the Indians on becoming the world’s number one Test side.
“The guys fought hard through this series but it was not enough. The batting of (Tillakaratne) Dilshan, Prasanna (Jayawardene), (Thilan) Samaraweera, came through in the first Test. These were the positives. Congratulations to the Indian team who did well as a unit. Someone always stepped up to perform,” he said.