The experts review the action

India have been tactically poor

Sanjay Manjrekar reviews the action in Colombo and says India still have a chance to give a better account of themselves (07:51)

July 28, 2010


Sri Lanka v India, 2nd Test, SSC, 3rd day

India have been tactically poor

July 28, 2010

A maiden Test half-century for Suresh Raina, Sri Lanka v India, 2nd Test, SSC, 3rd day, July 28, 2010
Sanjay Manjrekar: "Suresh Raina was the one guy from this young generation, who gave you the feeling that he was desperate for success at the Test level" © Live Images

Akhila Ranganna: Hello and welcome to Cricinfo. With me is Sanjay Manjrekar to look back on what has been an interesting Test between India and Sri Lanka in Colombo.

Sanjay, fair to say, this has been largely Sri Lanka's Test. But just looking back over the first two days, do you think tactically India could have done something different. Granted, we have lost two of our strike bowlers, but just looking at the Sri Lankan batsmen were going, do you think tactically India's approach could have been any different?

Sanjay Manjrekar: Yes, I think that is definitely something that a lot of people would be thinking about. India's non-tactical approach to the Test has become even more glaring, because Kumar Sangakkara on the other side has been very good tactically. Even a lay person watching the game could see that Sri Lanka were always trying something, there was always a plan. India seem to have resigned to their fate; they have accepted the fact that their bowling attack isn't great and also, the pitches in Sri Lanka are not that helpful.

I can understand that being the mood in the first Test but I don't think there should be the same kind of approach here as well because it is a given that the Sri Lankan pitches have nothing for the Indian bowlers and also, India does not have their strongest bowling line-up. India had to respond in this second Test and not go back to the familiar excuses that were given after the first Test. Gary Kirsten, who we heard this morning, was also saying the same things: the pitch is too heavily in favour of the batsmen. Sri Lanka got 600 runs but they lost just four wickets. That is something that India should take to heart and tactically you have to say MS Dhoni has been a little down. That is one aspect of his captaincy that he might want to look into. I think he is terrific in most other aspects but a tour of Sri Lanka with a weak bowling line-up with certainly get him to look at the tactical side of his leadership.

AR: Let's look at Sri Lanka's bowling now and start off with debutant Suraj Randiv. What did you make of his performance? He got the big breakthrough of Virender Sehwag; and just contrasting his performance with that of Harbhajan Singh's - how did Randiv appear threatening on a pitch where Harbhajan didn't have too much of an effect?

SM: I think it might be a slightly unfair comparison. Randiv is a new guy and he is bowling in home conditions; he is novelty to a few batsmen. Harbhajan has been around for a long time, the shoulder also gets tired when you are bowling, over the years. Randiv has that advantage.

But the one technical difference you can see is that Randiv just stops in his bowling stride; he pauses beautifully just as he is about to deliver the ball. Not often do you see Sehwag deceived like that. He is wonderful lofter of the ball and very rarely he is deceived in the way Randiv deceived him. He saw Sehwag charging him and because he has this delayed delivery action, he could see the charge and he reacted. I thought it was a great delivery.

Again I go back to the lengths the Sri Lankan bowlers have bowled and if you see Randiv bowls a lot fuller length than Harbhajan does. Harbhajan relies too much on the pitch to be effective; he keeps bowling short of good length and thereby becomes very dependent on the pitch. If you see Randiv, right through the day, there were so many occasions when the batsmen were driving him on the front foot. That shows his length was a lot fuller, thereby becoming more wicket-taking on pitches like this. Harbhajan has become this uni-dimensional bowler, who will bowl just this one length. So if there is a pitch that will help him then he will be a force. But on pitches like this he doesn't have a Plan B and that is how he has been over the years.

AR: What did you make of Ajantha Mendis? There's been quite a bit of pressure on him, talk of his mystery being unravelled and this is the post-Murali era. What did you make of his comeback?

"Harbhajan Singh has become this uni-dimensional bowler, who will bowl just this one length. So if there is a pitch that will help him then he will be a force. But on pitches like this he doesn't have a Plan B and that is how he has been over the years"

SM: It wasn't a sensational comeback but he has picked up two wickets. That means a lot on a pitch like this - the Indians were struggling to pick up wickets and he picked up two good wickets. He completely deceived M Vijay and then got VVS Laxman again. And tomorrow, on a fresh pitch, if a couple of batsmen relax a bit he will pick up another couple of wickets and then he will make life really difficult for the tail-enders. I think he has done well with the kind of limitations that he has had with the pitch and comebacks are never easy. He hasn't been playing regularly so he is not a really confident bowler at this stage.

I thought the Indians managed a lot better than they had done last time. But his effectiveness is still there for Sri Lanka. He has picked up two wickets and there are still a few wickets left in that Indian batting.

AR: What about the other debutant Suresh Raina? A half-century so far and he has look fairly assured out thereā€¦

SM:I am very pleased to see Raina get instant success at the Test level. He has been one guy from the new generation of batsmen that we have seen who have represented India in different levels of the game, who gave you the feeling that he was desperate for success at the Test level. Just watching the way he battled in the West Indies at the World Twenty20, he looked like a guy who was keen to make a mark at all levels in the game.

What was good to see was that the short ball didn't worry him too much. Obviously these are Sri Lankan pitches and the bowlers aren't the best in the world but he looked extremely comfortable out there. So that was very assuring. And there were some pleasing cover drives to watch: one against Dilhara Fernando and one against a spinner.

AR: Finally, India are four wickets down; Sachin Tendulkar is at one end with yet another Test century and the pitch doesn't seem to have too many demons in it. How do you see the rest of this Test panning out?

SM: This partnership is critical; if they can go on and get big scores then surely India will come close to 600 which would in itself be a great feat. I feel that might happen. Sri Lanka are missing Murali and Lasith Malinga so the Indian batsmen will have a much easier time in the middle. Tendulkar is well-set; he will have a good rest in the night and Raina will get a chance to recharge his batteries. And you have Dhoni to follow. Things are looking good. I see India playing well tomorrow. The pitch doesn't have too many demons and there is no Malinga to bowl magic deliveries like he did in the first Test to get some critical wickets and change the tide in the Test. So there is a good chance for India to give a better account of themselves with the bat.

AR: Thanks Sanjay for your views.

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