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Murali’s figures speak of a legacy

india Updated: Jul 24, 2010 00:33 IST
Anil Kumble
Anil Kumble
Hindustan Times
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The first Test at Galle was forgettable in many ways for India, but it was a perfect script as far as Muttiah Muralitharan was concerned. He had to struggle a bit for his last wicket but when it came through, it capped off a perfect Test for Sri Lanka.

They won the toss, got the runs on the board, the tail wagged with an important contribution and they finished the game strongly. Crucially, on a pitch like this, they had decisive partnerships. With the bat there was the 181-run Tharanga Paranavitana and Kumar Sangakkara stand and with the ball there was Muralitharan and Lasith Malinga. On both counts, India fell short and they paid the price.

Understandably, the Test was a lot about Murali. What he has achieved is not merely a stupendous individual feat, but also means a lot to Sri Lanka. Murali put them on the cricketing map, taking perhaps 50 pc of their wickets in the last decade. There are some amazing figures around - 22 10-wicket hauls, 67 five-wicket hauls, 800 wickets overall, and when you consider that the next in the list among active cricketers is Harbhajan Singh with 355 scalps, you understand the legacy Murali leaves behind.

All this was only possible through his love for bowling and his sheer passion for long spells, whether in practice or out in the middle. For the best part of his career he knew that he was the one who had to take the wickets.

The positive for India was the debut of Abhimanyu Mithun. He worked up a good pace, hit the right areas and showed the will to work in challenging conditions. The other thing MS Dhoni will look for is the fact that so many batsmen got starts, with only Virender Sehwag going on to really convert. There were signs of rustiness in the first innings.
The last time around, India lost at the Sinhalese Sports Club and squared the series at Galle. They're in the reverse scenario now, but will know what they need to do. When India beat Sri Lanka at home, a key component was the opening stands Sehwag and Gautam Gambhir put on. Again, this will be crucial, in order to take some pressure off the bowling, which does appear a bit thin.

India's main spinners did not pick up a wicket in the first Test, and this department has not been helped by the fact that there's been a bit of shuffling in the second spinner's slot. With the spinners being under pressure, the fast bowlers need to step up and deliver with some early breakthroughs, and not allow the Sri Lankan top order to settle. When the conditions are demanding, you need consistency, and that has to be the prime area of improvement for India.