Galle:A demoralised India will have to quickly find a solution to counter the twin threat posed by Sri Lankan spinners as they go into the must-win second Test here on Thursday with the reputation of their star-studded batting line-up at stake.
Still licking the wounds of their humiliating defeat in the first Test in Colombo, the Indians got little time to regroup and work out a definite strategy to deal with the wily Muttiah Muralitharan and new spin sensation Ajantha Mendis who have proved quite a handful for the visitors.
Apart from the poor batting display, the Indian bowling and fielding also left much to be desired in Colombo and it will need a vastly improved performance from Anil Kumble and his men to keep themselves afloat in the three-match series.
The pressure, no doubt, will be on the batsmen who surrendered meekly to the spinners in the last game which was quite surprising considering their experience and reputation of playing spin bowling.
For a batting line-up which boasts of seasoned batsmen like Sachin Tendulkar, Sourav Ganguly, Rahul Dravid, VVS Laxman and Virender Sehwag, the collective failure in Colombo should serve as a big blow. It will be a real test of character for these top batsmen and they will be keen to prove a point.
The Indians have also been toying with the idea of bringing in left arm spinner Pragyan Ojha at the expense of a batsman to strengthen the spin department as the track here is expected to assist the slow bowlers.
Dinesh Karthik had a miserable time behind the wickets and as a batsman but the team management may still persist with him for the crucial game in conditions which are bound to favour the home team.
The Sri Lankans, on the other hand, have no major problems and will again be depending on Murali and Mendis to do bulk of the damage. The duo captured 19 of the 20 wickets in Colombo to script a resounding win for the team.
Curator Jayantha Waranaveera has already sounded the alarm bells by declaring that the pitch for the second Test will assist spinners from the third day onwards.
"This will be a spinners' wicket because Lankans have got good spinners. Why should we not prepare the pitch for spinners when we have bowlers like Muralitharan and Mendis in our squad," Waranaveera said.
However, the curator insists that the track would assist the fast bowlers initially if they bowl with discipline.
"It will assist seamers initially. From the third day, it will start spinning. If Sri Lanka bat first then India could face defeat," he predicted.
In that case, the Indians may not want to bat in the fourth innings and for that to happen they will have to win the toss.
It will be imperative for India that Virender Sehwag and Gautam Gambhir give them a solid start as it will ease the pressure on the other batsmen.
Dravid, who has been struggling for form, will be under less pressure if the start is good and it could help him to settle down and play a long innings while Tendulkar, Ganguly and Laxman can play their natural game.
Sehwag and Gambhir have every opportunity to score quickly in the begining as Sri Lankan paceman Chamida Vaas and new recruit Nuwan Kulasekara lack pace.
The two averaged between 120 and 125kph in Colombo and bowled only 30 overs in all in a Test dominated by the spinners.
Vaas went wicketless and at one stage his pace dipped to as low as 115 kph. Sri Lankans thus have included young pacer Dammika Prasad in the squad for the crucial game.
Having dropped a few costly catches in the first Test, Indian also need to work on their ground fielding.
"As far as the fielding is concerned, Gambhir is working hard on close catches. In the last match, slip cordon was good. Dinesh Karthik had a bad match. He dropped a few catches but it is a part of the game. We hope to come back strongly," fielding coach Robin Singh said.
India: Anil Kumble (captain), Virender Sehwag, Gautam Gambhir, Sourav Ganguly, Rahul Dravid, Venkatsai Laxman, Sachin Tendulkar, Rohit Sharma, Dinesh Karthik, Parthiv Patel, Harbhajan Singh, Ishant Sharma, Zaheer Khan, Rudra Pratap Singh, Munaf Patel, Pragyan Ojha.
Sri Lanka: Mahela Jayawardene (captain), Michael Vandort, Malinda Warnapura, Kumar Sangakkara, Thilan Samaraweera, Chamara Silva, Tillakaratne Dilshan, Prasanna Jayawardene, Chaminda Vaas, Muttiah Muralitharan, Ajantha Mendis, Thilan Thushara, Nuwan Kulasekera, Chamara Kapugedera.
Hours of play: 10.15 to 12.15 am, 1.00 to 3.00 pm and 3.20 pm to 5.20 pm.