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Spotlight on Kumble, India eye win

Motera will be an ideal platform for Kumble to spin his team to another win and help wrap up the series 2-0 against the Lankans.

india Updated: Dec 18, 2005 10:46 IST
Qaiser Mohammad Ali (IANS)
Qaiser Mohammad Ali (IANS)

When India and Sri Lanka begin their five-day battle in Ahmedabad on Sunday, leg spinner Anil Kumble will become only the fifth Indian to play 100 Tests in the country's 73-year Test history.

India are 1-0 ahead in the three-Test series thanks largely to Kumble's eighth 10-wicket haul and Sachin Tendulkar's century in the second match in New Delhi this week.

It will be an ideal platform for Kumble, 35, to spin his team to another win and help wrap up the series 2-0.

A win will enable India climb up to an unprecedented second spot in the International Cricket Council's Test championship table.

And if Kumble, who already has 478 wickets in his kitty, does his 'spin act' at the Motera, it will give Rahul Dravid his first series win.

Dravid would like to go for a win and ensure India's fifth series victory over Sri Lanka since the two countries started playing Test matches in 1982 following the islanders' elevation to Test status.

As Tendulkar -- who cracked a world-record 35th century in New Delhi -- and all other batsmen are in fine nick, India will again look up to them to build on the advantage gained in the previous match, after rains washed out the first Test in Chennai.

India's batting will be further boosted by the return of Virender Sehwag, who missed the second match on his home turf due to a throat infection.

While Tendulkar's was the lone century in New Delhi, Irfan Pathan, promoted to open in the second innings in Sehwag's absence, came close to emulating the 'master' with a fine 93.

Yuvraj Singh (0 and 77 not out), Dravid (24, 53) and VVS Laxman (69, 11) all contributed their bit in the win. Sourav Ganguly scored 40 and 39. But the left-hander was dropped when the selectors had to choose between 33-year-old Ganguly him and 24-year-old Yuvraj while looking at the future.

In the New Delhi Test, the only failure was local boy Gautam Gambhir (2, 3), and his place in the XI is in jeopardy as prolific Mumbai opener Wasim Jaffer has been picked in place of Ganguly.

Jaffer, who has played seven Tests without much success, gets another chance as the selectors seem to have short-listed him for the tour of Pakistan starting next month.

The bowling has been taken care of by Kumble and off-spinner Harbhajan Singh who was also among the wicket takers in the New Delhi Test. And left-arm pacer Pathan continues to give flying starts to the team with the new ball.

Sri Lanka, on the other hand, have several areas to sort out. They seem to be still reeling under the 1-6 thrashing in one-day series in India in October-November.

Their batting, bowling and fielding have been equally responsible for the below par performances.

Only Mahela Jayawardene (198 runs in two Tests), Atapattu (162 in two), wily off-spinner Muttiah Muralitharan (10 wickets in two) and left-arm pacer Chaminda Vaas (seven in two) have braved a confident Indian side.

Jayawardene will also be looking to take two more catches and complete a century of a different kind.

India, under the guidance of coach Greg Chappell, continues to pleasantly surprise everyone even in Tests, after his much-talked about rotation policy in the successive home one-day series against Sri Lanka and South Africa last month yielded good results.

In the absence of Sehwag, Chappell sent Pathan as an opener, an option that clicked.

In 25 Tests played between the two countries, India have won nine, Sri Lanka three and 13 have ended in draws. Sri Lanka are yet to win a Test in 13 attempts on Indian soil, while the home side has won seven matches.


India (from): Rahul Dravid (captain), Virender Sehwag (vice-captain), Wasim Jaffer, Gautam Gambhir, Sachin Tendulkar, VVS Laxman, Yuvraj Singh, Mohammad Kaif, Mahendra Singh Dhoni (wicket-keeper), Irfan Pathan, Ajit Agarkar, Harbhajan Singh, Murali Kartik, Anil Kumble and Rudra Pratap Singh

Sri Lanka (from): Marvan Atapattu (captain), Kumara Sangakkara (vice-captain/wicket-keeper), Mahela Jayawardene, Avishka Gunawardene, Thilan Samaraweera, Tillakaratne Dilshan, Upul Tharanga, Farveez Maharoof, Dilhara Fernando, Chaminda Vaas, Muttiah Muralitharan, Lasith Malinga, Sajeewa Weerakoon, Malinga Bandara and Jehan Mubarak

Umpires: Bily Bowden (New Zealand) and Naddem Ghauri (Pakistan)

Third umpire: I. Shivram (India)

Match referee: Clive Lloyd (West Indies)

First Published: Dec 17, 2005 11:24 IST