Sri Lanka v India, 1st Test, SSC, Colombo, 3rd day July 25, 2008

Kirsten disappointed with poor shot-making

Gary Kirsten has expressed disappointment at the way India batted on the third day, on which they finished at 159 for 6 in response to Sri Lanka's first-innings total of 600

Virender Sehwag falls to an injudicious hook shot © AFP
At the end of a disappointing day's cricket for India, during which they watched on as Sri Lanka posted 600 and then slumped to 159 for 6, their coach Gary Kirsten hit the nail on the head. "If you look at the six wickets to fall, certainly four of them were not the greatest of shots," he said. "In hindsight, which is the perfect science, the guys will probably say they shouldn't have played particular shots. That's how we have to look at it."

Virender Sehwag fell hooking a ball from outside off stump, Gautam Gambhir chipped a leading-edge, Sourav Ganguly top-edged a sweep, and Dinesh Karthik slog-swept a ball back to four-wicket-hero Muttiah Muralitharan's hands three overs before stumps. Most were shots more akin to one-day cricket or the Indian Premier League, but Kirsten put it down to finding the right balance.

"We didn't play very well yesterday and some poor shot-making today left everyone really disappointed," he said. "We have a lot of hard work to do to save this Test. We are fully aware of the way we've played and need to accept responsibility for the way we've gone about our business over these last three days."

"I think everyone is aware that they are coming in and playing Test cricket. There were some errant shots, but I don't think that has anything to do with a lot of one-day cricket," he said. "These are fantastic batsmen who play with flair and like to take their shots on and when they are belting it around and scoring at four-and-a-half runs an over every one is happy. So it's really just balancing it out and we have to understand that there are times when we can take it on but also times when we need to be tight."

Karthik's slog-sweep against Murali was questionable considering it was his comeback Test and VVS Laxman was batting well. Kirsten, however, brushed it aside by offering that was the way he played. "He has obviously gone out there with a plan in terms of what we wanted to do. The times I've had with him, I've said 'go play like you know how to.' There is a plan when he walks out, absolutely. It's not necessarily the right way to go about it."

While there were four hundreds from Sri Lanka, India's highest score was Gambhir's 39. Kirsten looked back further, placing some part of the blame on what transpired earlier in the game after India lost the toss. "Our bowling was disappointing and we didn't strike early. We had an opportunity on the first day when the ball was doing a bit but didn't put it in the right area. We got 2 for 60 but didn't capitalise and let it slip. Sri Lanka have dominated us and we haven't even won one session yet."

There are few samples of front-on footage of Ajantha Mendis' unusual release of the cricket ball, and Kirsten said watching video footage and facing him in real time were poles apart. "That's watching it in super slow motion, but when he's out there his hand is moving at serious pace. It's not as easy to pick it in fast motion."

"We haven't got enough footage to analyse Mendis to overanalyse him," he said. "The guys need to go out there and get an understanding of how to play him. I thought Sachin [Tendulkar] played him extremely well and everyone has got their own way of going about it. But certainly not an over-analysis."

Kirsten diplomatically refused to accept India were out of his match, but at 159 for 6, needing another 242 runs to avoid the follow-on, it has been a disappointing Test so far for India.

Jamie Alter is a staff writer at Cricinfo