| Anil Kumble in Ahmedabad on Thursday
Ahmedabad: As Harbhajan Singh did the ceremonial cake-cutting on arrival at the team hotel in the company of Greg Chappell on Thursday morning, he splattered a chunk of the cream on the coach’s nose. The lingering smile on Chappell’s face only grew larger and he didn’t wait for long before putting it back on the off-spinner’s forehead.
There was more ‘agony’ for the Man of the Match. Yuvraj Singh, lurking nearby, pounced on the opportunity and rubbed off a sizeable portion of the cake on Harbhajan’s face. Realising that just wiping wouldn’t help, he rushed to wash it away.
The celebrations didn’t take long to end as some of the Mumbai and Delhi bound players were in a hurry to catch their flights.
It took only 30 minutes and 45 balls on the final day to seal the 2-0 victory in the Videocon series. Stand-in captain Virender Sehwag, however, did not wish to read much into India moving into second spot in the ICC rankings. “We’re not looking at rankings. We’re looking to win every match and series that we play. If we keep winning, other things will automatically fall into place.”
Harbhajan and Anil Kumble shared the remaining four wickets to expedite Sri Lanka’s fall from the grace. While Harbhajan finished with ten for 41 in the match ' his fourth such haul ' the leg-spinner completed his 31st instance of five or more wickets. Kumble’s 20 wickets in three Tests also earned him the Man of the Series award.
It was a fitting reward for the spinning duo. Time and again Kumble showed why he is rated so highly on wearing pitches while the off-spinner pitched the new ball on the seam to get turn and bounce in befuddling the batsmen.
It should also be wise to praise Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s superb role behind the stumps. The wicketkeeper, with helmet on, struggled at times to cope with the bounce, but nevertheless, proved himself worthy of the task.
For Sehwag, it was a sweet 259-run victory on his ‘debut’ as a Test captain. “A great honour,” was how he described it. “It was also tough because I was sick and didn’t play in New Delhi. But eventually, it became easier because the players supported me very well. I was relaxed after the first day’s play.
“There’s no secret to the success we are enjoying now. We’re working very hard, and we know that the winning habit is important,” explained Sehwag.
Sehwag felt Yuvraj has proved that he deserves a place in the XI. “You saw his innings here... He made a hundred against Pakistan last year when we were in the dumps. He’s very talented and has been performing consistently. So he deserves a place.”
But it is the contribution from the late-order, which played a big role in the triumph. According to Sehwag, it’s a “reward for their hard work at the nets”.
The stand-in captain agreed with Chappell that the opening partnership needed immediate attention. “We’re trying to build it' We’ve got to work on it.”
He admitted he was feeling pressure about his own form. “I’ve been in good nick' I’ve been getting 20s and 30s, but have failed to build on them. I have overcome similar situations in the past' I’m not much of a thinker, I just go and play. My mindset is very different from that of (Rahul) Dravid or (Sachin) Tendulkar. I’m pretty cool about it, but I’m feeling a little pressure. It’s important that I get runs.”
Maravan Atapattu maintained the team morale was high despite the loss. The Lankan captain blamed his side for “not capitalising the chances” that came their way. “The other thing is that we couldn’t take anything away from their lower-order batsmen, and the manner in which they played (Muttiah) Muralidharan. I think Irfan Pathan handled Muralidharan the best.”
Tom Moody referred it to “lack of concentration of our batsmen”. “It’s never easy to bat against two quality spinners, and we failed to adjust,” he maintained.