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'India's fighting spirit came through'

Sanjay Manjrekar looks back at India's series-levelling victory in Colombo (10:42)

August 7, 2010


Sri Lanka v India, 3rd Test, P Sara Oval, 5th day

'India's fighting spirit came through'

August 7, 2010

MS Dhoni at the end of the third day, Sri Lanka v India, 3rd Test, P Sara Oval, 3rd day, August 5, 2010
Manjrekar: "There is no doubt that tactically MS Dhoni needs to do more when it comes to five-day cricket" © Cameraworx/Live Images

Akhila Ranganna: Hello and welcome to Cricinfo. With me is Sanjay Manjrekar to look back on India's series-levelling victory in Colombo.

Sanjay, we discussed yesterday how Sri Lanka were favourites going into the final day…but for India to come out on top is really good victory for them…

Sanjay Manjrekar: Absolutely. India should be proud of this win. Sri Lanka had the advantage going into the final day purely because they were bowling last on a pitch that was turning. Plus they had got rid of Virender Sehwag and couple of other batsmen on the evening of day four. But I think the key in this Test was the way the pitch played on day four. After what we saw on the first three days people thought the pitch would get even worse but on day four in the afternoon, looking at the way the Sri Lankan batsmen played, it showed the pitch in a different light. I said as well yesterday that if there was a collapse in the first session today then Sri Lanka would have rolled India over. But if India managed to survive the first session - which they did through Sachin Tendulkar and VVS Laxman - then the pitch would get easier and in the end it was a tremendous win. Hats off to Laxman; he averaged about 85 so far this year in Tests before this innings and for somebody who plays only Test cricket it is a remarkable performance.

AR: Let's just put this Indian win in context: they were dealt blows in the bowling department with no Zaheer Khan and Sreesanth; Harbhajan Singh wasn't in form and injury meant he wasn't part of the third Test. Sri Lanka had won the first Test, they were pumped up and the odds-on favourite to win the series 2-0. Keeping in mind all this, it was a really creditable performance from India here and an equally creditable victory…

SM: This Indian performance has shown India's temperament in good light as well as their fighting spirit and character. This new team under MS Dhoni shows a lot of character and that has come through in the way they played. I couldn't imagine them picking 20 wickets; they lost the first Test predictably, they bounced back in the second Test putting up an even bigger score than Sri Lanka. And in the third Test, they ran Sri Lanka close right till the end, and when it mattered, they batted really well to win the Test. So with the kind of limitations, which will still haunt India in different conditions against better teams, it is amazing they haven't lost this series. And winning a Test with this bowling attack is a tremendous achievement.

AR: We've discussed through this series, how MS Dhoni has been found tactically wanting. It will have been a big learning series for him in that regard…

SM: Couple of days ago I had the pleasure of being with Sourav Ganguly after a long time and we exchanged a lot of thoughts. He mentioned something that I had felt, having been watching the game from a distance now. When you watch cricket from a distance you want to bounce your ideas off someone who has been on the field. And Ganguly has been one guy who was in the thick of things when the game changed. So I asked him whether Twenty20 captaincy can be over-rated and he agreed. According to him captaincy is really tested in Test cricket where you have to innovative. You have to dig deep and your leadership skills are tested over five days. Many aspects of captaincy are tested in Tests, which is not the case in the shorter format.

"With the kind of limitations, which will still haunt India in different conditions against better teams, it is amazing they haven't lost this series. And winning a Test with this bowling attack is a tremendous achievement"

Dhoni is a great leader. It is not just with his tactics in the team; with the kind of country that we live in it is also leadership off the field that is important for India to play well and be perceived as a strong team. Dhoni is brilliant there, but he will be the first to accept that he needs more Tests to grow as a leader, especially in testing conditions when he goes to South Africa and Australia, his captaincy will be tested even more. He is fine in the shorter formats; he has a great temperament and clam leadership in a form of cricket where there is a lot happening. He is still growing in Tests, and the more Tests he gets, the better he will be. There is no doubt that tactically he needs to do more when it comes to five-day cricket.

AR: You spoke about VVS Laxman. A half-century in the first innings and then this unbeaten century…he was really India's batting star in this second innings wasn't he?

SM: Absolutely. Looking at the way he started off this morning, it is so easy to get into a mindset that you don't want to lose a wicket and play cautiously. But Laxman was playing freely and that is where the nature of Laxman and Rahul Dravid as players and people comes through. Dravid will always take the cautious approach; that is the way he has batted all trough his career and he really shouldn't change because that approach has given him success. Laxman has played his shots; he has preferred to play relaxed cricket and that is something that helped India in the way he batted this morning.

To finish up with an unbeaten hundred is great. I have been in a situation where I have played only Tests for India and not too much of the other formats, and it is very tough. Laxman is doing it well for India; coming back after long gaps. And he will value this innings a lot more than some of his other knocks because it ended in a win for India and he stayed unbeaten which is something a batsman dreams of. No amount of credit is enough; it was a tremendous performance from him.

AR: The Indian spinners - Virender Sehwag and Pragyan Ojha struck for in this Test, but looking at the bowling unit as a whole, problems still persist, given Zaheer's absence and Harbhajan's lack of form. India play Australia and New Zealand at home next and then go to South Africa…how do you see the problems in the bowling being sorted?

SM: The first thing India need to do is celebrate this win because they have had so many handicaps. Sri Lanka is difficult team to beat in Sri Lanka. Having done that, there are genuine problems as far as bowling is concerned. Against good batting sides, on flat pitches, our bowlers will put a lot of pressure on our batsmen. The batsmen came good this time, they may not come good the next time.

VVS Laxman celebrates his 16th century shortly before the victory, Sri Lanka v India, 3rd Test, P Sara Oval, 5th day, August 7, 2010
Manjrekar: "For somebody who plays only Test cricket, it is a remarkable performance" © AFP

We need at least three world-class bowlers to be the No.1 team in the world. When Australia dominated world cricket they had at least three world-class bowlers. In Sri Lanka we didn't have any. Harbhajan was out of form so it is important that India have at least three bowlers of international standard; bowlers who can produce wicket-taking deliveries even on flat pitches. When India tour South Africa and Australia the batting also comes under pressure because of the pace and bounce but that is another matter. But for the moment, looking at the cricket that is coming up, bowling is something they have got to look at. It is not really Dhoni's business; the selectors and the people who are there in the selection wing, have to find the talent that can pick up 20 wickets for India even on batting pitches.

AR: Sri Lanka will be disappointed with this defeat especially given they were expected to win. But as we have been discussing, it looks like some of the bite in their bowling is missing post Muttiah Muralitharan's retirement. How do you think Sri Lanka, post-Murali, can continue to be a threat especially at home?

SM: Sri Lanka should be really disappointed with this loss because they were playing at home which is always an advantage and they have a great track record at home. Plus they were playing a team that came with a very big weakness. And to have lost to that team and not having won the series, they should be concerned. Sri Lanka by all counts should have won this series hands down with the kind of bowling attack India had.

Their batting in the third Test was a disappointment and post-Murali they have to realise that is will take a while for them to get two to three bowlers who can replace one Murali. On the seam bowling front, they were a little short. Too much of work was left to Lasith Malinga; Chanaka Welagedara looked very ordinary and wasn't really a threat. I expected better from Ajantha Mendis. As he plays more games, the confidence will come back and he will come back to his wicket-taking ways. Suraj Randiv is a pretty decent bowler. He has got a good temperament and a big heart to come and bowl to the top batsmen in the opposition, so he is a good find. Just the overall dominance that Sri Lanka have at home was missing in this series. Allowing India to get 700 runs in the second Test and then losing the final Test means they will have to look at themselves as to why they were not able to dominate India as much as they could have and should have, looking at their track record.

AR: Thanks Sanjay for your views.

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