India appear to be a team on the move

Unlike the visitors, Indians have the advantage of attending to their weaker areas in time, writes Arjuna Ranatunga.

india Updated: Dec 17, 2005 17:57 IST

The one thing that has struck me about the Sri Lankans is their rather paperweight line-up in the lower half of the batting. The Indians know it, as I suspect Lankans too, that if the top three of the visitors are taken care of, Anil Kumble and company can run riot. The middle order has been fluffy and the likes of Chaminda Vaas, Muthiah Muralitharan and Dilhara Fernando can only throw their bats in hope. Who would then score the runs?

It is an issue which would not go away in a hurry. It perhaps was the reason why Atapattu came down the order in Chennai. In the next Test, it was return to convention and the lower half could not cope up to the quality of the Indian bowling.

Sri Lanka would have to scatter its resources to have an experienced hand at the lower half. Or one of the top men would have to bat through. There is just no other alternative.

Kumara Sangakkara is the obvious choice since Atapattu has had two impressive 50s at the top of the order. Mahela Jayawardene too promised stability before his rush of blood hurt the team critically in Kotla. Sangakkara can shepherd the rather inexperienced middle order.

Conversely, the Sri Lankans could show the trust in the Samraweeras and Dilshans to come good in the Test. Sometimes it is best to throw a rookie in the deep end of the pool for him to learn the ropes. However, realism rather than hope should guide plans when it is Kumble who is waiting for his next delivery at the top of his run up.

For despite Muralitharan's class show in Kotla, I suspect the Indians are not spending sleepless nights at the prospect of facing the off-spinner. There is too much depth and variety in Indian line-up to worry overtly about Murali or Vaas. It's a line up which is perfectly capable of two quality partnerships to take shape at any time. Often, as we have seen, only a couple of good stands are proving enough to rock the Lankan boat.

The Lankans not only have to worry about the outcome of the final Test they also want to depart with the feeling that a few of their critical areas are now under repair. It is good to know that you still have seniors pulling their weight in team's cause but it's not an indication of team's health. The team is in shape only if the younger lots are ready to take over the mantle. Sadly, this present Lankan team does not inspire such a belief.

The Lankans though would be looking for signs of disquiet in the Indian dressing room. When so much is brewing around the omission of a man in the country, with all kind of important voices coming from the highest seat of Indian democracy, dressing room is not a strong enough citadel for people inside not to feel under siege. It could dilute the team's focus. It is a strange situation to be in for a team which is entering the fray as victors from the previous Test.

Unlike the visitors, Indians have the advantage of attending to their weaker areas in time. It is an advantage which a host team always has. So promptly comes in Wasim Jaffer to see if the situation of asking Pathans to open the innings can be avoided.

India, all through in the one-dayers and now in Tests, have appeared to be a team on the move.

The hosts have more or less appeared in control but there are always sideways glances at their fast bowling options. Both Pathan and Ajit Agarkar did what they could in Kotla but still the team can do with some firepower in the pace department. Indians are unlikely to go in the Test with five bowlers but knowing the state of Ahmedabad pitch, it's an option worth considering. Like Jaffer, it could perk up a VRV Singh or an R P Singh.

Or may be the Indians feel a Kumble is all they need against the Lankans!

First Published: Dec 17, 2005 17:57 IST