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Anil Kumble - Insight Edge

Murali and Herath will pose a threat to India's batting, feels Kumble

Monday, November 16, 2021
'Lankans desperate for win'

At long last, the Indian team will be at full strength when the first Test against the Sri Lankans gets underway at Ahmedabad. The team management will have welcomed the return of Zaheer Khan warmly, for he is a bowler for all conditions.

The Sri Lankans, for their part, will be on a mission. They haven’t won a Test in India in 27 years and going by what Muttiah Muralitharan has said, they desperately want to change that. Their preparation though has not been ideal. These days you have but one warm-up game and when that too gets washed out, you tend to feel underdone.

Touring teams normally tend to finalise their bowling combinations by trying out different things at the warm-up game and with the Lankans denied that opportunity, they will find it that much more difficult to decide on who gets to play.

Also a large number of their players are touring India for the first time and they will have really liked at least one match under their belt before the Tests began. As it is they have an inexperienced pace attack with Chaminda Vaas no longer around. It will be up to Nuwan Kulasekara to show the way.

Their spin department is much better off and naturally Murali will be the key. Ajantha Mendis will find that things are quite different in India and that his T20 experience may not be of much help in Tests. But I like the way Herath has stepped up whenever Murali has been absent. Here, it will be interesting to see what kind of pitches will be laid out for the three Tests.

The Indians too will be thinking hard about their combination. With so little time between series — the Indians are just coming off the ODI series against the Australians — some quick thinking should have been done even as the ODIs were on. Yes, usually the planning for the next series is done only after the current one has been completed, but surely the Indians would have devoted some time to the Tests while they were engaging the Aussies.

Whether they did or not, they most certainly missed one trick. With the series having been decided at Guwahati on November 8, there should have been a move to put Ishant Sharma on the next flight to Delhi in order to play the Ranji Trophy tie against Karnataka. It may not have been the ideal thing for my home state but on what turned out to be a pace-friendly strip, Ishant could have sent down some long spells and probably bagged a confidence-boosting three or five-wicket haul.

To stick to the pacers, the recall of Sreesanth was a little surprising. In the time he was out of the Indian team, his only domestic performance of note has been a three-wicket burst in the Irani Trophy.

Look he’s definitely a talented guy but we all know he’s had his problems with attitude and been in the news for all the wrong reasons. I am sure the team management will have had a word with him and make it clear that he will have to mend his ways. In a team game, it is not just about talent, it’s also about team ethics and values.

Sreesanth needn’t look too far for the perfect combination of all that. The last one week has been about celebrating Sachin Tendulkar’s 20 long years in international cricket and he owes his success to not just the tremendous talent he undoubtedly possesses but also his remarkable ability to focus on the job at hand. Knowing him, he will not have been distracted one bit over what’s been going on and instead will have trained his mind on getting the Test series off to a good start both for himself and the team with a solid innings from that the big bat of his.