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India set to attack Galle-keepers

The big question for the Indian team, who will play second Test in Galle, is whether they have found a way to attack Sri Lanka's spinners or not?, reports Anand Vasu. Spl: Mission Sri Lanka

cricket Updated: Jul 31, 2008 00:57 IST
Anand Vasu

Watching the Indian team practice at the Galle International Stadium over the last three days has been an instruction in keeping the mind focussed on the job at hand and staying positive.

The more people you speak to, the more you realise that what happened in the first Test was a shocker. Even Sri Lanka's players can scarcely believe that they managed to wrap things up as quickly as they did.

Despite the ribald jokes and expected anger of India supporters who demand that the team wins every time it steps out to the middle, the mood has not been dark in the Indian camp.

These are players who know a thing or two about winning Test matches. They know that their skills have not deserted them overnight. They are aware that a slight change in the balance could have a major effect on the end result.

The first Test was Murphy's Law most carefully applied with everything that could possibly go wrong going wrong. Surely that can't happen again.

The bad news for the Indian team is that Galle is as much a fortress for the Sri Lankans as SSC was. Sri Lanka have won six of the twelve Tests played here, losing only twice, with four games being interrupted severely by weather.

Further bad news is that Murali has an astonishing 91 wickets at Galle, having taken part in every game Sri Lanka has played at the venue.

Mahela Jayawardene, another man who hasn't missed a game at the venue, has scored 1389 runs here, averaging 99.21 with four hundreds. But reputations and records can be misleading, as everyone found at Colombo. In the aftermath of the crushing defeat in the first Test, it has almost been forgotten that Sachin

Tendulkar needs 133 more runs to become Test cricket's highest run-getter. With the target being to keep the series alive — and even a rain—interrupted draw will achieve that end -

Tendulkar will have the freedom to get stuck in. And to be fair, though he only made 39 runs in the two innings at the SSC, he was dismissed in freakish circumstances both times.

Anil Kumble has said emphatically that he has faith in the team and that the combination would be "more or less the same."

Jayawardene too has made it clear that it was likely that there would be no changes. What's more, the Sri Lankan skipper is keen to leave nothing to chance and seal the series here.

“We asked them some questions in Colombo and they didn't have the answers,” he said. “We will have to find out if they have the answers for that yet. If they have answers, we will start asking different questions.”

The big question is whether the Indians have found a way to attack Sri Lanka's spinners.

If the Indians fail to do so, they will once again find themselves in a sticky position with Sri Lanka calling the shots.

And Sri Lanka, understandably, want to do little more than continue where they left off. When asked what he had told Mendis in the lead-up to this match, Jayawardene said: "To go out there and enjoy himself — that's what he did in the last game. He had a very big smile when he took the ball. It's important that we keep him the way he is. He is a guy who likes to bowl and challenge himself. In our team, we have given him the freedom.

Murali is also much more comfortable with Mendis in the side as Murali doesn't have to do all the work by himself. If Vaasy can come to the party as well and create a few problems, we will be in good hands."

When Sri Lanka last played here, against England last year, Vaas did come to the party, making the most of some moisture in the pitch by taking four wickets on the first day as England were bowled out for only 71.

But India will do themselves no favours by worrying about the opposition. All they can do is bring their best game to the park, and respond strongly.