Sri Lankans have the firepower to rattle India

Written by: Arjuna Ranatunga
Published: Friday, December 9, 2005, 13:59 [IST]
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New Delhi:I read with interest that Rahul Dravid wants a quickish pitch at Kotla for the second cricket Test. It is a legitimate concern for an under-prepared spinning track could well play into the hands of Murali.

It is not a One-day but a Test match where Murali could not be too concerned about wides or that he is allowed to bowl only 10 overs. He can keep as many fielders around the bat as he wants.

Even in one-dayers which not only brought a loss of face to the Sri Lankans as well as slip in the rankings, Murali was a shining exception. He was rarely clobbered, not even in Jaipur where Mahendra Singh Dhoni was scripting that career-defining 180-odd. It is not easy to hit him for fours, more so when the ball is turning square.

The champion in Murali would like to leave his mark on the tour. His pride must have hurt from the one-dayers and he knows it is not often when you come to tour India. His bowling average against the Indians too does not match up to his superlatives against the rest.

I guess he would imagine it's time for redemption. He could not ask for more than a spinning pitch where it is difficult for batsmen to attack off the backfoot.

If I am allowed to linger on Murali a little longer, I must say he is the best spinner I have come across in my career. It is not a slight to Shane Warne and the rest but just a personal opinion. One, he has done it in such a short time; two, I believe the umpires in England or Australia give a batsman out leg before wicket even when he is playing front-foot. In our sub-continent conditions, spinners rarely are rewarded on frontplay.

There is also little flashy or uppish about the man. He is innocent to a fault and a smile never leaves his face. He is a man with a big heart and transparent honesty.

The piercing eyes at the top of his bowling run-up is not an effort to intimidate a batsman but just to focus his energies on the job ahead. He also never sledges which cannot be said about the likes of Warne or others.

I believe Sri Lankans have the firepower to rattle the Indians in Delhi. Vaas, Murali and Fernando are all match winners. But they must stick to their attacking style of playrather than bowl defensively.

In Chennai, they concentrated on keeping the ball on the stumps and took the pace off their deliveries which was sensible since the ball was keeping low and batsmen could only show the full face of the bat.

However, they must look to attack here if they sense the conditions are better suited. Not that they did a bad job in getting Indians to their lowest ever in Tests against them in Chennai!

It is also vital that the Lankan bowlers play their part for it is a better bowling than batting unit. In the absence of Sanath Jayasuriya, the team appears to have lost its batting firepower. Sri Lankans must adjust to this new reality quickly.

Skipper Marvan Atapattu's insistence to come in the middle order could well be an attempt to shore up the middle and lower order. However, as I said earlier, the better way to ensure the well-being of middle order is to provide stability at the top and it is a job which Atapattu has done with distinction all these years.

A few superstars are close to personal landmarks: Anil Kumble and Murali are nearing 100 Tests, Chaminda Vaas a high of 300th scalp and Sachin Tendulkar whom everyone is egging on to go for his 35th Test century.

They are all game's true legends and in times such as this you marvel at their longevity and tenacity, not to forget the considerable skills.

I don't remember to have played any Test in Delhi though the one-dayer of 1996 World Cup was a special one. It was a defining moment of our still-growing graph as we stunned the Indians, despite a superlative century from Tendulkar. One hopes when the Lankans move on from the Capital, they have a similar sense of deja vu.

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