Comeback doesn't surprise Kumble
Anil Kumble wore the look of a man who had just lost a match, not one who had captained India to a memorable away win at a Sri Lankan fortress and set up a mouth-watering series finale in less than a week's time. But as he continued to address the media after India's 170-run win in Galle it became evident Kumble was not in the least surprised by what had just transpired.
"I was confident we would come back," he said without batting an eyelid or smiling smugly. "One look at the dressing room shows you how much potential this team has. I've mentioned this before, that we've done this in the past. This team has been through ups and downs and it has a fair amount of experience and quality. There's no doubt that we would regroup and come back hard. I'm really proud of the way we played in this Test."
This win was admittedly tough for those outside the Indian camp to see coming. Crushed at the SSC, India arrived in Galle with the odds considerably stacked against them. "People generally say that we don't' start well and the results probably show that. We had enough time and prepared enough but it [the loss at the SSC] was one of those games where nothing went right for us," he said. "The way we've come back after four days is amazing. This group has shown amazing resilience not just once but time and time again."
Resilience is a word Kumble had dropped on this tour as much as he's had unsuccessful appeals turned down off his bowling. Yet his players proved him right, not in the least the opening act of Virender Sehwag and Gautam Gambhir, and an underperforming Harbhajan Singh, who picked up his fifth ten-wicket haul. Kumble couldn't pinpoint one turning point in a Test which swung both side's way enticingly, but praised a collective effort.
"The opening partnerships in both innings, Virender getting a double- hundred and Gautam getting us off to fantastic starts in both innings was very important. Also the way Harbhajan Singh bowled in both innings and how Ishant [Sharma] and Zaheer [Khan] bowled today. There is quality in this team and it augurs really well going into the last Test."
There was one area of concern, however. As they have before, India dropped the baton in the first session. VVS Laxman and Sourav Ganguly, not the most ambulatory of runners, harried triples twice to try and gather some momentum but were quickly dismissed by Muttiah Muralitharan and Ajantha Mendis. A gutsy Dinesh Karthik tried to hit his way out of a slump only to slog another into the outfield, and India's tail failed to wag.
"You cannot keep looking at one individual to say he can do better. Everyone can do better," he said. "Overall if all of us had done better maybe we would have finished the game in three days. There is definitely improvement we need to look at as a team and that will be the focus."
Kumble said he was confident of defending 307 given the fourth-innings history in Galle, with the successful chases coming while chasing targets below 10. The highest fourth-innings total in Galle, in fact, had been England's 210 for 9 in a tense draw in 2003. "We had the runs and not many teams have chased 300 in the fourth innings," Kumble said, "so it was important that we went in with some positive outlook. The way Ishant and Zaheer started out was brilliant."
|Overall if all of us had done better maybe we would have finished the game in three days|
Ishant bowled with pace and accuracy and extracted appreciable bounce on a fourth-day pitch which hadn't hinted at any assistance for the quick bowlers. Kumble was quick to praise his young bowler, whose early double-strike hurt Sri Lanka. "In these conditions when he's bowling at 140 [kph] ... actually, I didn't see the speeds ... but the way the keeper was collecting the ball you could sense that he was in good rhythm and that's a good sign. Getting three wickets within 40 minutes was critical and put Sri Lanka totally on the back foot."
Kumble admitted India had some middle-order concerns, but credited Sehwag's handling of Murali and Mendis as vital. "As the series goes on you try and figure out the best possible ways to handle the spinners. Mendis is a mystery to some of us but Sehwag has shown that you can get runs off the spinners. Getting 201 in a total of 329 is something amazing. Taking that forward into the second innings is never easy but he batted brilliantly and gave us another strong start.
"Its 1-1 and we need to assess the conditions at the P Sara Stadium, and then we will take a call. We're really confident of putting up a good show and if we repeat this performance we will get a good result."
Jamie Alter is a staff writer at Cricinfo