Colombo:Mystery spinner Ajantha Mendis may have shone in his debut Test for Sri Lanka by picking up eight wickets, but India skipper Anil Kumble feels that veteran tweaker Muttiah Muralitharan was the deciding factor in his side's humiliating defeat on Saturday.
"Both the spinners Murali and Mendis bowled really well. Mendis is a tremendous find for Sri Lanka, but you certainly can't take Murali out of the picture. He eventually was the the deciding factor for us," Kumble said after India slumped to their third heaviest defeat, by an innings and 239 runs.
Kumble acknowledged that after the hosts had posted a mammoth 600 for six in their first innings, it was always going to be a Herculean task for the famed Indian batting order to save the match.
"After conceding 600 runs in the first innings, we knew it was always going to be tough for us to draw the match.
"Obviously, if we would have batted first then the advantage could have been on our side in this pitch," Kumble said.
Winning skipper Mahela Jayawardene credited his side's thumping victory to his batsmen.
"We probably played the perfect game. Once we posted 600 runs in the first innings, we knew the pressure is on India," he said.
"It's obviously good to see four out of your six, seven batsmen scoring hundreds, but its not possible to keep the consistency in every game," he added.
Muralitharan, who was adjudged man-of-the-match for his match figures of 11 wickets for 110 runs, echoed his captain. "India is a very experienced team. Both myself and Ajantha (Mendis) bowled well, but the batsmen laid the foundation for us," said the spin wizard who earned his 19th man-of-the-match award in Tests.
Muralitharan was especially full of praise for his young partner in spin department. "Ajantha bowled really well in his debut match. He is a new find, he is the future of Sri Lankan cricket. When I started my career, I must agree I was not that good as him," he said.