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Playing across the line to Mendis proved fatal

India's top order made runs in the tournament and going by the way they played Mendis, it's obviously not easy to pick him, writes Anil Kumble.
Hindustan Times | By Anil Kumble
UPDATED ON JUL 08, 2008 11:41 AM IST

It was disappointing to see India go down in the final after playing so well throughout. But if I have to draw some consolation, it is the performance of Ajantha Mendis, a fellow spinner, and all credit to him for the way he bowled. On flat pitches, bowlers have had a tough time and for someone to run through a batting line-up was a big achievement.

India's top order made runs in the tournament and going by the way they played Mendis, it's obviously not easy to pick him. When you're struggling to pick a bowler out of his hand, the usual thing is to play him off the wicket. What was surprising was that many Indian batsmen did not pick his length early enough. The safest option, when you're not quite sure which way the ball will turn, is to play straight and some of our batsmen made the mistake of playing across the line and paid the price.

Mendis uses a grip that you see quite often in tennis ball cricket, but to master this with a cricket ball takes some doing and he's obviously managed that. He bowled wicket-to-wicket and employed subtle variations. It's not that he spun the ball appreciably but he showed that when you are accurate, all it takes is small movement to beat the stroke.

With India going to Sri Lanka next for a full series, we need to watch Mendis. But Test cricket is a different ball game as batsmen have more time to assess a bowler and come up with a method to tackle him. In limited-overs cricket, you're always looking to score and this can induce the mistake.

Taking 6 for 13 in a final is a great spell, but the match was not about Mendis alone. When India picked up Kumar Sangakkara and Mahela Jayawardene cheaply they had made the ideal start but Sanath Jayasuriya showed just how big a part he can play. India bowled well but Jayasuriya ensured that even the early breakthroughs did not hamper their progress. He's the kind of batsman who can hit boundaries even in the middle overs, when the bowlers are trying to keep things a bit quiet, and this made a difference.

I thought Ishant Sharma bowled really well up front and we have been talking about how important it is to do damage with the new ball. But India faltered in that they did not back up this start in the middle overs. They needed to keep getting wickets and ensure the pressure was on Sri Lanka. Instead, partnerships developed and Tillakaratne Dilshan, although playing second fiddle, made an important contribution.

Sri Lanka might have only reached 273, but in a final that's like scoring 300. There's always pressure on the team batting second, once the runs are on the board, and that makes totals look that extra bit bigger. All credit to Sri Lanka but I feel for the Indian team. When you've done all the hard work, you want to sign off on a high note, but this time around it just wasn't to be.

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