Had it not been for Lasith Malinga and Muttiah Muralitharan’s sharp bowling coupled with erratic shot selection by some of the Indian batsmen in Galle, the scorecard of India’s first two Tests in Sri Lanka would have looked similar and the series tied at 0-0.
Other than Murali and Malinga, none of the regular bowlers involved in the series have looked like creating an impression. And that’s because of the lifeless wickets. The Galle turf offered slow turn on the last two days and was very good to bat on the last day of the match. The Sinhalese Sports Club strip offered no assistance to any bowler.
However, this is where the character of a Test bowler comes into play. When the conditions are in favour of the batsmen, the bowlers have to come up with some innovation. But neither the new-ball bowlers —Ishant Sharma and Abhimayu Mithun — nor the spinners — Harbhajan Singh and Pragyan Ojha — tried anything different. For instance, none of the bowlers looked to use the crease — by either bowling wide of the wicket or from 23 yards.
India skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni has emphasised the need for early wickets before every game on this tour. But with both Ishant and Mithun failing to get any movement in the air, India have allowed the Lankan top order to score heavily. “Movement in the air is the key to success in Sri Lanka. Nobody could really swing the ball. The Indians could have made a bit of a difference with a swing bowler,” Champaka Ramanayake, Sri Lanka’s bowling coach, told HT on Sunday.
India are feeling the absence of Zaheer Khan since both Ishant and Mithun are hit-the-deck bowlers. Besides, Ishant has appeared to drop shoulders early on in the innings.
Ramanayake agreed. “Though Ishant is young, he has now played a lot of matches in such conditions. But from what I saw in the two Tests, he is not bowling at his 100 per cent. Of course, he is a good bowler so he can come good any time.”
And Ramanayake, who shared the red cherry for Sri Lanka in 18 Tests, also felt it was high time Sri Lanka’s new-ball bowlers learnt the art of moving the ball in the air, something that he was known for. “Our bowlers also have to learn and improve,” he said.
Though Ramanayake slammed the placid pitch, he said the P Sara Oval track, the venue for the last Test, will have a lot to offer to the bowlers. “This would always offer some movement,” Ramanayke said.