India coach Kirsten defends captain Kumble

Published: Thursday, October 16, 2008, 10:43 [IST]
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Embattled India skipper Anil Kumble has received a ringing endorsement from coach Gary Kirsten as he struggles with his form and fitness ahead of the second Test against Australia.

Nursing a sore shoulder, the 37-year-old leg-spinner failed to bag a single wicket in the drawn first test at Bangalore.

It was only the third time in his career and the first time ever in front of a home crowd he has walked away empty-handed.

He also dropped two catches off his own bowling to cap a miserable outing and trigger a debate as to whether he was fit enough to lead the Indian side.

However, Kirsten reaffirmed his faith in Kumble and warned Australians of a comeback from the stalwart in the second Test, which begins here on Friday.

"Kumble is a warrior," Kirsten said here late on Wednesday.

"He is alright at the moment. He has a little bit of pain but he is very keen to play. I am sure that regardless of how he is physically, he would be ready to represent his country.

"We don't look at form in one Test but over a long period of time. He is one of the greatest Indian players ever. Any champion player who struggles comes back stronger.

"He is going to come back more determined than before to put in a match-winning performance. He has been doing this for the last 17 years."

The former South African opener also spoke about the upbeat mood in the Indian camp following their match-saving heroics in Bangalore.

"As a coach or even when I was playing against them, I have never seen such strong team unity and togetherness. They are very eager to win this Test series. They have the belief that they can beat Australia.

"The greatest catalyst has been the fact that we are up against the number one team in the world. No one is talking about individual records but what we can do as a team."

Kirsten did not rule out playing an extra fast bowler at the expense of a spinner, considering the success his seamers enjoyed in difficult conditions in the previous Test.

"These are exciting times in Indian cricket. Seamers are making a contribution and affecting the course of a match and that too on any kind of wicket.

"The skills that our fast bowlers showed in Bangalore has given them a lot of belief, so we are looking at different options and will decide on the final bowling combination after having another look at the Mohali wicket."

The Indian fast bowlers, led by left-arm paceman Zaheer Khan, gave the team crucial breakthroughs and picked 13 of the 16 Aussie wickets to fall in Bangalore.

Kirsten heaped praise on Zaheer, who finished the match with six wickets.

"Zaheer has a tremendous belief in himself, he is intelligent and understands how he must bowl in different conditions. He has great variations which comes from experience. He is a highly skilled bowler."

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