India bounced back from an innings defeat at the SSC in Colombo to level the series by beating Sri Lanka by 170 runs in Galle and Gary Kirsten, the India coach, has said that the process of fighting back "started with Anil Kumble, and filtered down to the rest".
"He [Kumble] is a fantastic leader and fighter," Kirsten said. "He has a tremendous work ethic and takes Test cricket very seriously. To motivate the team to improve their performance wasn't really difficult. The great thing about his team is they do hurt a lot when they lose. That's when one knows these guys take great pride in playing for India."
Kirsten said the big challenge for India would be to keep the momentum going for the deciding Test which begins at the P Saravanamuttu Stadium in Colombo on August 8. "I can sense the team is ready to make history. If every member can perform at a reasonably good level, we would have done enough," he said.
Virender Sehwag was instrumental in India's win, scoring 201 not out and 50, and he approach oozed aggression. "Every player plays differently," Kirsten said. "The success of any Test side is how each batsman sticks to his own skill and works on one or two things that he can improve. We certainly don't say Sehwag plays like this, so the rest of the batsmen need to play like this. He plays like that since he has the skill and ability to play like that."
Kirsten also praised Ishant Sharma, who bowled at pace and extracted sharp bounce on a fourth-day pitch. Ishant dismissed Malinda Warnapura, Mahela Jayawardene and Tillakaratne Dilshan and ended with 3 for 20 in 15 overs . "He is probably our best seamer," Kirsten said. "I'm very impressed by what he has to offer. He is a young bowler learning how to go about Test cricket. When he is bowling his natural length, he is as good as anyone in the world."
Kirsten said he always believed the team would bounce back after the SSC loss. "They have a proven history of that. We have always believed that when this team is firing on all cylinders, it can match best in the world." He said his long-term goal was to ensure that India was the best in the world by April 2009.
Kirsten, however, will not be available for the third Test after he was granted leave by the BCCI to travel to South Africa to be with his mother, who is critically ill. A press release issued by the board said an interim replacement has not been sought.