Murali isn't struggling - Kumar Sangakkara
Muttiah Muralitharan may have played one of his most forgettable Tests in Ahmedabad last week but he isn't "struggling", his captain has said. Kumar Sangakkara did, however, concede that it was "unusual" for Murali to have gone wicketless in India's second innings, the first time in his career when he's bowled at least 20 overs.
"Murali is not struggling. He is just finding himself again in a new way. I'm a very strong believer he is our match-winner still," Sangakkara said after a long practice session ahead of the second Test in Kanpur. He said it was natural for the team to depend on Murali for an impact but he was not getting unduly flustered at this stage about the form of his most experienced and successful bowler.
Spinners are likely to play an important role on the Green Park pitch, which both captains agreed was dry beneath the light grass covering. The question remains about the pace and bounce of the track but it is expected to take turn later in the game as the surface gets drier. In the first Test Sri Lanka preferred the left-armer Rangana Herath as Murali's slow-ball partner, a choice that drew mixed reactions. He was picked largely because of his good form in the preceding home series against Pakistan and New Zealand but, as he toiled at Motera, picking up three wickets in 62 overs, the feeling grew that Ajantha Mendis, with his unorthodox action and bowling style, would've been a better bet.
However, circumstances - in the form of an injury to new-ball bowler Dammika Prasad - may present Sangakkara with the opportunity to do something unusual to secure Sri Lanka's first-ever Test win in India. "Prasad's injury means we can play three spinners if we want to," he said. "Ajantha is always in the reckoning and [fast bowler Dilhara] Fernando has also been bowling quite fast and accurately."
Unlike India, Sri Lanka have an allrounder in Angelo Mathews to help the team's balance. His dual role creates space for an extra bowler who could either be another spinner or a fast bowler at this stage, Sangakkara said.
Fernando, who joined the squad after Thilan Thushara returned home with a shoulder injury, has been in good rhythm back home playing club cricket and hence is not short of match practice. "It is very easy for him to fit into the side, he's a great guy to have in the dressing room. He has been bowling quite fast and accurate and if he does play tomorrow's Test match, it will be very good for us," Sangakkara said.
He hoped the Green Park pitch would not be like the "placid" Motera track last week. "There is bit more grass on it but it is quite dry underneath, but again unless we play we don't know how it will behave. But we have to back ourselves on any wicket. Our attitude would to keep trying and if you do that something might happen."
Nagraj Gollapudi is an assistant editor at Cricinfo