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Sri Lanka v India, 2nd Test, Galle, 2nd day
Sanjay Manjrekar: Sehwag playing without preconceived notions
August 1, 2008
Sehwag is the only batsman in the Indian team who is confident and is playing the way he naturally would
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Sehwag is in an all together different league. He is more relaxed and plays his shots without any preconceived notions © AFP

Medini Mangala: Hello and welcome to Cricinfo Talk. I have Sanjay Manjrekar with me to look back on day two of the second Test.

Sanjay, when Virender Sehwag was batting it almost looked as if he was playing against a totally different opposition, on a completely different pitch. What has he done so differently in this match that he is able to play the Sri Lankan spinners much better?

Sanjay Manjrekar: Well Sehwag is playing like Sehwag, like he normally does. He is perhaps the only batsman in the Indian team, currently, who is not too tense or uncertain in his mind. He is relaxed and isn't committing himself to any shot. He doesn't have a premeditated movement to the spinners or a certain technique that he has decided before going in to the middle. He is just reacting to the ball and keeping a nice balance. He is basically playing his natural game without too many preconceived notions.

You cannot say the same about some of the other Indian batsmen who, on this trip, are slightly tense for some reason. Some are lacking form but a few are clearly exuding a body language that doesn't reflect confidence. That is where I think Sehwag has been different. He is a lot more relaxed and he is playing with an open mind. He is just reacting to the ball that has been bowled because the bowling attack isn't that great that the Indian batting cannot handle it. It is just a matter of them relaxing and not feeling the pressure as much. If they do that, they will be quite happy facing the spin-twin attack that Sri Lanka have.

MM: Ajantha Mendis is playing only in his second Test but he is showing good control and great character. Early days, but how do you see him going from here on?

SM: I'm very impressed by Mendis. There are a lot of things going for him. He looks a cricketer - he is quite athletic and seems a natural which is always a good thing. He seems like somebody who has bowled all his life which is a good thing because he knows exactly where to bowl. All these are things that are already there in him. They are not things he is learning right now. He already knows where to attack which batsman. He knows how to pick up wickets and that is very important information that you should have as a bowler - a wicket-bank in your memory which tells you where you get most of your wickets. He has at least four or five variations which he bowls with a great degree of control. Also, like Anil Kumble, he bowls very straight and very close to the stumps and that is the reason he gets so many lbw and bowled.

On a bad day, you will have a batsman playing him comfortably and he will be hit for runs; batsmen will see everything that is coming from his hand and play him well. But he will always end up getting a few wickets, especially that of the tail. A bowler like him, with his variations and the line he bowls, will be difficult to handle. He doesn't give you much time in the air either for you to charge down the pitch and hit him out of the ground.

So there are a lot of things going for him. I will be surprised if this man doesn't have a long and outstanding career in international cricket.

MM: India lost their last six wickets for only 51 runs while Sehwag was stranded at the other end. How worrying is this lack of support from the tail?

SM: I'm not sure this Indian tail will have an easy time against Muttiah Muralitharan and Mendis bowling together even on a pitch that doesn't turn as much as Galle. It is not going to be as easy as it is against other teams where you have tired fast bowlers bowling with one spinner. Murali and Mendis are outstanding spinners and them bowling together can be quite stifling for tailenders. It is not a worrying sign because tailenders are not supposed to be good batsmen. So you are not expecting them to get the runs especially against these spinners in these conditions. It is just a reality that these two spinners will make miserable for tailenders from most countries.

MM: At the end of the day's play do you think the balance is tilted slightly in India's favour? Where do you see the Test heading?

SM: I see India slightly ahead at this stage. Mahela Jayawardene is obviously the key and if Sri Lanka get close to India's first-innings score, they will be the favourites purely because of the batting form the Indians have shown. Most of India's batsmen have been out of form and only one or two have shown some semblance of form. Sehwag, obviously, but he is in a different league. Gautam Gambhir has shown some confidence and to a lesser degree VVS Laxman.

If Sri Lanka are bundled out with more than 50-75 runs, then India are still in the game. But if Sri Lanka get very close, then they will be the fancied team. At this stage today, at the end of day two, India have a slight advantage.

MM: Thank you for your views Sanjay. We'll hear from you again tomorrow. Goodbye.

Former India batsman Sanjay Manjrekar is a cricket commentator and presenter on TV. @sanjaymanjrekar

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