The experts review the action

India must prevent first-session wickets

Sanjay Manjrekar on the action in Colombo and says Sri Lanka will be the favourites going into the final day (07:20)

August 6, 2010

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Sri Lanka v India, 3rd Test, P Sara Oval, 4th day

India must prevent first-session wickets

August 6, 2010

Thilan Samaraweera celebrates an important fifty, Sri Lanka v India, 3rd Test, P Sara Oval, 4th day, August 6, 2010
Sanjay Manjrekar: "Thilan Samaraweera is not one of those prodigiously talented batsmen but when he gets an opportunity he just digs deep" © Cameraworx/Live Images

Akhila Ranganna: Hello and welcome to Cricinfo. With me is Sanjay Manjrekar to look back on what has been an interesting third Test so far between India and Sri Lanka at the P Sara Stadium in Colombo .

Sanjay, the first session today belonged to India with their spinners dominating, but things didn't go their way in the next two sessions with Sri Lanka coming out on top. Which of the two teams would have been the happier one in the dressing room?

Sanjay Manjrekar: I think it would be Sri Lanka purely because they got the dangerous Virender Sehwag out. That was the big wicket and when you saw Mahela Jayawardene take the catch and the celebration that followed, you realised that this was the wicket they wanted. Sachhin Tendulkar is the next one so it is just a mater of a couple of wickets and then the pressure just builds on the team batting last. India's endeavour should be to stretch the match as much as possible. If they manage to take the match post lunch or close to tea, the conditions out there will ease up just as they eased up for the Sri Lankan batsmen today. So if they can stretch the match the pressure might come back on Sri Lanka. But at this stage Sri Lanka, maybe, will have the happier dressing room.

AR: We have been discussing India's tactics through this series. Now the Thilan Samaraweera-Ajantha Mendis partnership was the difference between India chasing 150-plus and 250-plus that they have to chase now. Do you think India could have done anything tactically different during that partnership, especially while bowling to Mendis?

SM: I think the tactics from India have been slightly better in this Test. There hasn't been a complete turnaround in the way MS Dhoni was going about his field changes and ideas. He is captain who generally makes the bowling changes and the change in angles and leaves a lot of the work and thinking to the bowlers themselves. But there was a great deal more thought in the way the spinners bowled, especially in the way Sehwag bowled. When he came on to bowl, he was looking to bowl quick and looking to bowl full lengths, further up to the batsmen. That is something the other spinners started to do as well. Pragyan Ojha got Jayawardene with a ball that he hadn't bowled much of earlier, when he was bowling a lot shorter. In this Test the length changed and India's spinners bowled a lot better in this Test. So, on that front, you perhaps can't criticise MS Dhoni too much in terms of the tactics.

What was exposed was the basic ability of the bowlers, especially that of the Indian seamers. When Mendis was batting in that fashion, what was needed was someone who was quick through the air and who could bowl yorkers and it would have been a matter of time before such batsmen would have missed the delivery. Both Abhimanyu Mithun and Ishant Sharma are short-of-length bowlers, and when tailenders are backing away, even when the tailenders miss the ball, they are not bowled because the ball is so short that it invariably sails over the stumps. Someone like Lasith Malinga would have been a much better option at such a stage because he attacks the stumps and bowls full. Some tailenders would have looked to slog him but not for long. But Mendis just succeeded in slogging the Indian bowlers for a long time and that once again exposed India's limitations in the bowling department.

AR: You are someone who has followed a lot of Sri Lankan cricket in recent times. Samaraweera, in this Test, has held the Sri Lankan innings together, first with that unbeaten century in the first innings and now with his crucial 83. Is this some of the best cricket that you have seen from him?

SM: No, because whenever I have seen Samaraweera bat in Sri Lanka, he has batted like this. But if Sri Lanka go on to win this Test, then this innings [of 83] - where he looked all set to get another hundred - will be one of his most precious contributions to his team, looking at the context of the game. He is someone who has not got enough out of the game. He is a fighter; he is not one of those prodigiously talented batsmen but when he gets an opportunity he just digs deep. It is the same kind of attitude I have seen whenever he bats for Sri Lanka, at the SSC, at the Premadasa and now at the P Sara; he is a difficult batsman to dislodge.

AR: Talking about batting, this series has been a forgettable one for Rahul Dravid. What do you see as the problem?

SM: One can't actually find a fault as to what Dravid was doing wrong. Both Dravid and VVS Laxman find themselves in a tough position in their career, where they are coming in cold to Tests. I have always admired Laxman who has been a Test player for the last four-five years. He comes cold into Tests; long gaps between Test series' for him, but he comes in and plays well. I remember telling him how amazing it was that he could do it. It's been the same for Dravid in the last couple of years. It is tough and I don't think there is one technical problem there that has found him wanting. It is just one of those passages that a player goes through when he is not able to get those runs. Now because Dravid is a defensive player, there is no other way out. Now Sehwag, or Tendulkar to an extent, or Laxman might look to play shots and get themselves going, but Dravid has to play the waiting game; he has to just grind the bowlers. That is what he will have to do because there is no Plan B for batsmen like him. It has been just one difficult series; let's hope he gets more opportunities because he wouldn't want to end his career in this fashion and I am hoping he will come good. But it will get tougher for people like Dravid because of the age factor and because they are playing international cricket after long gaps and that too, Tests.

AR: Finally, what sort of a chance do you give India to save this Test, or even win it?

SM: India have a chance of winning this Test, but Sri Lanka have the better chance. India's endeavour has to be to take this match into the second session. If they can do that the conditions will ease up at the P Sara as we saw when India were in the field. Sri Lanka got those three Indian wickets in the post-tea session when the ball was hard and new. Tomorrow there will be some help early on for the bowlers with the moisture and the typical morning freshness. If India can take the match in to lunch, the pitch will slow down, the ball will get older and it will be easier for the batsmen to survive. If India can do that, they will have a pretty good chance of winning this Test. Sri Lanka, through the tail, have shown India that on this pitch you can still win a Test even if the target is in excess of 200.

AR: Thanks Sanjay for your views.

Posted by nataraajds on (August 7, 2010, 3:12 GMT)

Once again India let SL off hook & lost a easy win golden opportunity .this time Samaraweera & mendis play crucial partnership. playing 4th for 256 Innings on a turning track against Randhiv & Mendis is not an easy task in lanka.. If Sachin & Laxman hang on till end & Raina and dhoni chip in scoring remaining 200 runs may not be a tough task.. good luck india

Posted by   on (August 7, 2010, 3:10 GMT)

Manjrekar must be one of the most negative Indian cricketer there is - always bagging Indian cricket at the slightest opportunity - negative about our chances at all times...Perhaps he's a pakistani

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