Perhaps Harbhajan Singh was in shock. Or maybe he was trying to be humourous in a dire situation. Whatever it was, his comments to the media at the end of the third day, with India staring down the barrel, varied from wishful thinking to bordering on the inappropriate.
“We are looking to have a good partnership in the morning. I hope Laxman and Rahul play the same sort of innings like Calcutta (2001),” said Harbhajan.
“If they can do that and we go on to win, it will be another great win. Let's see what happens.”
Asked what he would like to pick up from Ajantha Mendis, who now has 25 wickets at a stunning average of 17.44 with five possible victims still in the fray, Harbhajan said: “I wish I could pick his wicket-taking luck. We all bowl the same sort of deliveries.
“He is new in international cricket and the more people play him the more they will get to see him and learn about him. He does have some variations but every bowler has variations. I would like to steal his luck.”
Some appreciation of Mendis’s craft was due, especially given how the batsmen have surrendered meekly in his wake, but Harbhajan did not see it that way.
Asked about the middle-order’s continued failure in the ongoing series, Harbhajan came up with the clichés.
“We haven’t performed up to what we should have. These are the guys who have won games for India and done so well. It’s just a matter of not clicking. I don’t know how it happened.”
Fortunately, this time around Harbhajan remembered the opposition, giving Mendis some credit. “The Sri Lankans have bowled really well, especially Mendis — he has been really consistent for them,” Harbhajan said.
He has changed the series for them. Without him I think Sri Lanka would have really struggled in this series. The way he has bowled is outstanding."
Harbhajan, who said the pitch had barely changed over the three days, hoped it would stay true for one final Indian batting effort.
“It’s a very good wicket to bat on. If you have patience you can score a lot of runs,” he said. “It’s not doing very much for the seamers and not spinning big or bouncing much. I hope we bat well tomorrow.”
Sanga feels contest not over just yet
Kumar Sangakkara talked the talk after having walked the walk in the final Test.
“From our point of view, the match is far from over. If we come out thinking the next five wickets are going to fall easily, we are going to be in trouble. We want to keep them (the lead) well below a hundred.”
Turning to the job Mendis had done, Sangakkara was effusive in praise.
“We were looking for a support bowler for Murali. Mendis has gone beyond expectations. The character and intelligence that he has shown, I am sure as the years go by, he will get better and better.”