|Team India captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni and Sachin Tendulkar discuss a point during a practice session in Colombo, on Sunday, the eve of their second Test against Sri Lanka. (AP)
Sri Lanka would be missing Muttiah Muralidharan and Lasith Malinga but Mahendra Singh Dhoni said their absence does not make his batsmens job any easy in the second Test, starting in Colombo Monday. The India captain, in fact, said at a press conference that he is looking forward to a good contest with Ajantha Mendis.
The following are excerpts
The mood in the side
The general thinking is that we could have batted a lot better than we did in Galle. We are trying to rectify the problems. We have shaped up well. We had a day off, then two really good practice sessions. We practised on the centre wicket today, so most of the batsmen and the bowlers got the best out of it. The preparation has been good. The dressing room atmosphere is back to normal.
Learning from the mistakes
Thats crucial. You need to stick to the basics, do the basics right rather than thinking about the last game because we all know what mistakes were committed on the field. You can commit mistakes, but the longer the duration is between two mistakes, the better the player you are...
Muttiah Muralidharan and Lasith Malingas absence
Nothing is easy in international cricket. You may miss the most experienced bowlers but at the same time, there will be youngsters standing up and saying okay, I will try to fill the shoes. So its not about whom you are missing. What matters is who is filling in the gap and who will be doing the job for you.
On the preparations against a bowler who has a unique action
You see a few videos and you try to visualise them… Apart from that, theres not much that you can do because you dont get bowlers like Malinga during nets.
Ajantha Mendis of 2008 and now
Theres definitely more exposure... Most of our cricketers have played him quite a few times in the past. That really helps them in judging the kind of variations he has got… the kind of line he looks to bowl and all those things... The general kind of strategy as well. From an unknown quantity, from a player who you didnt know much about, he is more of a player who you know now — his strengths, his weaknesses… I think it will be an interesting face-off .
Mendis has got variations but its not that you dont pick his action, as is the case with Malinga. You can see the videos and see what the variations actually are. You can see the hand, the point of delivery of the ball and more often than not, you can pick what the variations are.
There is a bit more grass cover on the wicket but the base of the wicket still looks a bit dry. I think there will be slightly more bounce for the fast bowlers compared to Galle. If you are looking to bowl first, then 3-1 is an ideal combination, if you are looking to bat first, then you will stick to 2-2.
If playing five bowlers is a possibility
Thats a very difficult thought… Playing with five bowlers gets a bit difficult because you are one batsman short, and unless your batting order is performing really well and each and every batsman is in good nick, you cant afford to have that extra bowler.
If batting is tough in Sri Lanka
I dont think its too different apart from the fact that it was difficult to pick Malinga, which will be difficult in any part of the world with the action that he has got. Its not like India where you keep bowling at one pace, and with the SG ball get good bounce. Even on a turning track, the spinners have to work hard to get wickets. There is a bit more help for the fast bowlers over here because of the swing in the evening and early morning. Even from the second day, you can get a bit of reverse swing going...
Sachin Tendulkars mentoring role
Along with the other seniors, Sachin takes that added responsibility... Rahul (Dravid), (VVS) Laxman, Harbhajan (Singh), Virender Sehwag… They all have got an added responsibility, but again, it is not subject to losing a game. Their experience and inputs really count, it is just an added responsibility on them.
If the side is worried about losing the No. 1 ranking
If we lose it, we will try to get it back. Its not that once you reach the top, that place belongs to you. Its one place that everybody is fighting for. Some people fight it directly, but teams like us, take it game by game. Our way to get on top is to win each and every Test match that we play. Do well on the field and the ratings take care of themselves. You have to keep doing well on a consistent basis to be at the top. Its not something that belongs to you… So even if it goes away, you have more than one occasion when you can get it back. Its a test of character, you can say, we are not thinking too much about the rankings.