Aug 14, 2008

Columnists - Anil Kumble

Any which way you look at it, we left Sri Lanka with a strong sense of disappointment. The result read 1-2 but we know in our hearts that we squandered a rare opportunity to beat the Lankans in their backyard. Not too many teams have done this in the recent past and Sri Lanka take great pride in their record at home.

After losing the first Test and coming back strongly in the second one, we won an important toss in the final Test.

The toss plays an important role, but you still have to do well once you win it and make the first innings count. Instead, what we did was first fail with the bat — 249 after choosing to bat was never going to be enough — and then let them off the hook by allowing their tail to stretch their first innings.

All the batsmen got starts but at the highest level, that’s not enough. There were no big scores and this really cost us in the decider. Virender Sehwag’s first-innings double hundred was a big factor at Galle and without that we would have found it hard to win that Test.

In a team game, it’s very important for those doing well to really make it count as it helps those who are struggling to overcome difficulties.

Often, when a series has been lost, the tendency is to look only at those who fail. But sometimes it’s also worth asking: Those who were in good form and doing well, getting starts, could they have done a bit more?

In a team sport, it’s the result that matters, not the batsmen saying the bowlers failed or vice-versa. You have to work together to make up for whichever department you are lacking in.

A common theme throughout our series was that we did not make most of the chances that came our way. In the final Test, we had the game in control till the end of the second day.

In both innings, we had a chance to make it count with the bat and the simple fact is that we failed to do so. Of course, the injuries, all on the same day, did not help in any way, but that’s not an excuse. We really missed a great opportunity to win a series in Sri Lanka.

Ajantha Mendis was a deciding factor in many ways. Muttiah Muralitharan always gives it his best and he is a champion, but to have two spinners operating in tandem and controlling the game makes it very different for the opposition. In that light, from our point of view, I could have done better and provided more support to Harbhajan Singh in terms of picking up wickets.

In hindsight, there were a couple of situations where we could have done better. Full credit to VVS Laxman for the way he batted despite intense pain and discomfort in the final innings.

It was a special effort. Ideally, we would have liked a couple of our middle-order batsmen to find form early in the series.

All in all, though, I’d have to point to two pieces of statistics: we made only one hundred, and took one five-for all tour.

You have to have stronger performances than that in the long form. That made the difference between victory and defeat.

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