Sri Lanka v India, 2nd Test, SSC July 25, 2010

India's batsmen look to set the record straight

India's bowlers badly need their batsmen to deliver to get some respite on a tough tour
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There has to be something about Sri Lanka. Over the last 11 years, neither of Rahul Dravid (on his third tour here in that duration), Sachin Tendulkar and VVS Laxman (on their second trips), or Sourav Ganguly (who toured twice) has scored a Test century.

They have scored centuries - big ones too - in seaming conditions, on turning pitches, against the SG ball, against the Kookaburra, against the Duke. But not in Sri Lanka - not for more than a decade. Virender Sehwag is the only man to have avoided what seems a big aberration for one of the best batting line-ups of our time. It's a simple equation for the bowlers who are not India's biggest strength: they need runs on board to apply pressure, and if they are bowling first they need a solid response from the famed batting line-up.

The team knows that's where it messed up in the Galle Test, which it had no business losing after close to one-and-a-half days were lost to rain, despite Lasith Malinga and Muttiah Muralitharan. India's bowling attack was so weak on paper, especially with Harbhajan Singh recovering from flu, that whatever India managed from them was a bonus. It was the batsmen who were supposed to keep India afloat, especially after they lost the toss and the Sri Lankans, with characteristic ruthlessness, ground the attack down.

Batting in Sri Lanka comes with unique challenges. Not least the humid conditions, which demand fitness and strength to bat long enough for centuries, and then some more to convert them into big ones, like the Sri Lankans do. Still, all among the frontline Indian batsmen have played enough long innings to suggest that losing concentration in physically demanding conditions should not be that big an issue.

The pitches, too, are different from other subcontinental surfaces. "The pitches here are probably difficult to score than in India," Kumar Sangakkara said. "If the track gets flat there, it stays flat for a very long time." MS Dhoni tends to agree. He says spin and wear and tear invariably become factors third day onwards, and the evening session usually brings some assistance for the pace bowlers.

Also India have managed to catch Murali and Chaminda Vaas, and then Murali and Ajantha Mendis, at their best on their last two tours. "We have, as a group of bowlers, attacked Indian batsmen really well," Mahela Jayawardene, Sri Lanka's captain on one of those tours, said. "Viru [Sehwag] is exceptional, but there are other batsmen who bat really well, but haven't got hundreds. You look at this line-up, and it is remarkable that we have given hundreds only to one batsman. Overall we have had some gameplans, and executed those gameplans really well."

Going into the first Test of this tour, the batsmen were expected to set that record straight, given there was no Mendis and that Murali had been in lean form leading up to the series. That was not to be.

"The general thinking is we could have batted a lot better than what we did in Galle," Dhoni said. "We are trying to rectify the problems. We have shaped up well. We had a day off, then two really good practice sessions. We got centre-wicket practice today, so most of the batsmen and the bowlers got the best out of it. The preparation level has been good. The dressing-room atmosphere is back to normal."

Mendis will be coming back for the second Test, but there will be neither Murali nor Malinga. Mendis, too, doesn't hold the same threat as he did two years ago. Or that seems to be the feeling right now. "From an unknown quantity, from a player who you didn't know much about, he [Mendis] is more of a player now as an individual. [You know] what are his strengths, what his weaknesses are," Dhoni said. "I think it will be an interesting face-off between the batsmen and the bowler because our batting line-up is one of the best, so definitely they will try to do well against him, especially because the last time we were here, most of our batsmen couldn't read all his deliveries or couldn't do as well as expected."

Also the SSC track, which many a batsman enjoys, gives the Indian batting line-up an opportunity to set that record straight. It is about much more than personal records right now; their bowlers need those runs badly to get some respite on a tough tour.

Sidharth Monga is a staff writer at Cricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • usman_nile1994 on July 26, 2010, 6:10 GMT

    Indian bowlers are the reasons for their bowlers' downfall. The bowlers concede so much and shatter the confidence of batsmen. Does Srikkanth and Dhoni hate I Pathan, Chawla, R Ashwin , Rp Singh? Mishra and Ojha has given so many chances. Give Ashwin and Chawla the chances and they would definitely click. India bowling would have been good if Zaheer Sreesanth were not injured and SL would have been defeated. The present Ind bowling attack is 3rd class. Zaheer and Sreesanth could have done much better with Mithun. And on Sri Lanka why are they using P Jayawardene. There are so many talented batsman wicket-keeper like Chandimal. Give them chance. And also why N Kulasekara is out. He is better than welegedera

  • usman_nile1994 on July 26, 2010, 4:59 GMT

    Also Ishant Sharma is the worst bowler. Vinay Kumar Ashok Dinda Umesh Yadav are better or the u-19 bowlers were more impressive. On spin department Ojha and Mishra are like part-timers. Harbhajan is great these too are too bad. R Ashwin is the best indian spinner at this time. He could also bat too giving India a 5-bowl option and since their batting is good they could afford it

  • usman_nile1994 on July 26, 2010, 4:56 GMT

    Its really strange to see that although India has two great bowlers in Irfan Pathan and Rp Singh they are not using them. Rp Singh is underrated don't judge him by ipl he is a great bowler.

  • dummy4fb on July 26, 2010, 4:37 GMT

    Well really hate to say it but it seems indian players gets injured more than they play. This time gambhir and yuvi are out.. what the helll is happening...?? I am not sure if there non existence on the field makes any difference as Vijay and Raina filled in for them but fitness is the matter of concern.. What will happen if they are lame at the time of world cup.. Sachin and Dravid being around 37 are much better than these players... I hope everything goes out well in this test match....

  • grimmettfan on July 26, 2010, 4:32 GMT

    This is pure sophistry. Tendulkar hasn't scored a century in SL since 1999..this means that he hasn't scored one in all of 4 tests; never mind the fact that he has 4 centuries in SL from before that!

  • coolguy_sing on July 26, 2010, 4:17 GMT

    Yuvi is out with fever and Gambhir is out with an injury. They decided to play Vijay and Raina. What happened to that lad Tiwary who is serving drinks ? Why is he brought to Srilanka? only to serve drinks? Absolute mismanagement.. How many peoples lifes are they going to waste like this ? Why do they need players to serve drinks. Its better to employ someone to serve drinks alone.. Let the players atleast happily play domestic tournaments instead of losing touch by serving drinks to all these so called legends..

  • nks1234 on July 26, 2010, 4:01 GMT

    @Avidcricketfan....2 38 years old..just to say something dont just say it without facts.Sachin is 37....but anyhow this is about present yet..the match is today and not after 2 years..or is it??accepted Sachin didnt make a 100 in last tour..but it was just 1 tour in 11 years so dont talk a lot about no 100s in 11 years....If u hate Indian team just be open....

  • reinventingcricket on July 26, 2010, 3:58 GMT

    Well i think India could easily have 2-3 national cricket teams if they really want to. The question is not the talent. I am sure you could find enough people to slot each position in the team specially after seeing ICl and IPL. And of course more than 20 million cricketers. The issue is with not the talent but to identify the talents and harness them. That involves a skill and commitment. That why you see countries like New Zealnd (population 4million?) Sri Lanka(20 million) performing. Just Think about it.

  • CricketisKing on July 26, 2010, 3:55 GMT

    It amazes me that India with such a huge population cannot find 4 or 5 good Test match winning bowlers. Part of the problem are the pitches in India. They are prepared to help the batsmen. Look at the Ranji Trophy scores and most of them are run fests. Unless India gets back to preparing bowler-friendly or at least an equal wicket, Inida is going to have a dearth of bowlers. It is going to get worse as no one would like to become a bowler. It is sad that the BCCI is not helping in this matter. It is true that the public wants to see batsmen score runs and this brings in money for the BCCI. So why change. If matters go this way, in about 5 years India will be at the bottom half of the pack.

  • dummy4fb on July 26, 2010, 0:03 GMT

    India will win this test match easily...... With Centuries from Laxman and Yuvi.....

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