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July 30, 2008
Anil Kumble is a man of few words when it comes to addressing the media before, during and after a match but his crisp verdict that India needed to win in Galle at any cost was the most forthright he's been this series. The last time India trailed a three-match series 0-1 was against Sri Lanka in 2001-02 and this Test could prove to be the most important in recent history, given that a loss here could seriously throw up composition concerns going forward into a busy season.
"One down is one down, whether you're in Australia or Sri Lanka, so it's a matter of regrouping," said Kumble. "We've done that and spent quality time discussing issues on and off the field, seeing how we can cope and come back. We've done that in the past with the same set of players and there is definitely a lot of experience and resilience in this team.
"We will fall back on that resilience and I'm sure we will be able to put up a better show and get the right result here. We need to win this Test match. That's the approach we are taking."
India clearly underperformed at the SSC but before questions started to fly around about who was at fault, Kumble pointed out it was a collective failure. "If you look at the team, overall we didn't play to our potential," he said. "It is wrong to point fingers at one batsman or one player. Whatever confidence I can give as a captain and team member, I've done that. It is not just the batting line-up. It's all the members of this team. We are all disappointed at what happened in the last game and we're looking forward to this challenge."
Perhaps aware that the only sides to beat Sri Lanka in Galle did so because of massive totals, Kumble stressed on batting well. "We will definitely approach this Test in a very positive way. The series is still alive and we'd like to go out and get as many runs as possible. We need a good score and have quality spinners as well to ensure we come into the game," he said. "It is a good surface for the fast bowlers as well. There will be a bit of swing because of the conditions here. But I'm sure the spinners will definitely come into play."
Coming to Sri Lanka and winning was never going to be easy, said Kumble, but the signs shown in the past four days led him to believe they were hungry to prove they could win. He also said he had no plans to change the batting order, as he had complete faith in the names on the team sheet.
India's combination for this Test will remain "more or less the same as before" and nothing in India's practice session suggested a change either. The mood was upbeat, with Gary Kirsten, the coach, sharing laughs with India's batsmen as he handed out catching practice. Venkatesh Prasad was stoic as he monitored the bowlers but there was nothing out of the ordinary at that end of the ground. Zaheer Khan's departure from practice early was not a matter of concern, said Kumble, as it was team policy to allow a player to leave once he felt satisfied.
After losing the toss in Colombo, how crucial would it be here in Galle? "Toss and weather is not something we like to concentrate on," Kumble said. "Whether we bat or bowl first we need to do a good job - bat well, land the ball in the right areas, take our catches. In the subcontinent the toss plays a crucial role but we can't worry about it too much."
Last December, when England played Sri Lanka in Galle's comeback Test, Kevin Pietersen was flipping through the channels one evening when he came upon highlights of The Oval Test in 1998 when Muttiah Muralitharan famously wrecked England's batting line-up. On the eve of the Test, Pietersen noted how much England's approach to Murali had improved since then. After being bowled out for 81 in their first innings, England creditably rallied to 251 before rain forced a draw. England's batsmen allowed Murali only four wickets in that Test, and so Pietersen's observations were correct in a way.
India will hope that their batsmen have improved since they last played Sri Lanka in Galle in 2001 - and that will be a true test of the resilience Kumble speaks of.
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