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Murali’s Indian farewell

cricket Updated: Jul 18, 2010 11:32 IST
Amol Karhadkar
Amol Karhadkar
Hindustan Times
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Muttiah Muralitharan, playing in his farewell Test, will understandably be the man in the centre of the action as the three-match series between Sri Lanka and India begins at the Galle International Stadium on Sunday.

But there will be lots to look forward to for both teams beyond wishing Murali a happy second innings.

For the visitors, this is an excellent opportunity to avenge the defeat of a nail-biting series in 2008 and stamp their authority as the No. 1 Test team in the world. But that's going to be easier said than done, thanks to a depleted bowling attack which is among the weakest attack India have fielded in the last decade. While some of the younger bowlers like S Sreesanth and Ishant Sharma have helped India win an odd Test overseas, in the sub-continent, India have heavily relied on Zaheer Khan for early breakthroughs.

But with Zaheer out of the series and Sreesanth returning home after bowling just six balls in India's first practice session, the pace attack looks thin. While Ishant impressed in the tour game, the hope is that Abhimanyu Mithun, set for his Test debut, will benefit from the warm-up tie to overcome big-match blues. With two young and relatively inexperienced bowlers making use of the new ball, India will pin their hopes on Harbhajan Singh to create a hole in the strong Sri Lankan batting order. But even the off-spinner is recovering from a bacterial infection that forced him out of the practice game.

Harbhajan's absence meant the tour game was a kind of a selection trial for leggie Amit Mishra and left-arm spinner Pragyan Ojha. Though Ojha sealed his place with an eight-wicket haul, he will have to tighten the noose and stop the runs leaking off his bowling.

MS Dhoni emphasised on Saturday that the key to winning a Test match is taking 20 wickets. It remains to be seen if such bowling attack can force the Dilshans, Jayawardenes, Samaraweeras and Sangakkaras to make mistakes.

The Sri Lankan bowling scenario is not much different. Though Murali and Rangana Herath will ask some questions of the formidable Indian batting, Lasith Malinga is making a comeback to the longest format after two-and-a-half years.

Naturally, the series is expected to be a high-scoring affair, with one dream spell making a huge difference to the outcome of the series.

While Sri Lanka are hoping it comes from Murali in Galle, the Indians will be over the moon if any of their bowlers can rise to the occasion.