M&M’s is a popular chocolate candy but the “M&M effect” known to world cricket is the devastation that is seen when Murali and Mendis are bowling in a match. The pair of M&M brought the world’s most competent batting line up to its knees at Colombo. Nothing went right for the Indian batsmen in that match. They looked confused and completely out of touch against the greatness of Murali and they were equally afraid of Mendis who is the next big thing.
The second match in the series starts tomorrow and is being played at Galle, which is said to have a similar pitch to Colombo. Galle is an interesting ground because although the general conditions are similar to Colombo, it can serve fast bowlers well if they bowl according to line and length and exploit the early conditions. The famous Pakistani victory against Sri Lanka at Galle comes to mind when Sri Lanka fell to the brilliance of Wasim, Waqar and Razzaq and lost by an innings and some runs. Zaheer Khan and Chaminda Vaas, the two most experienced pacers that will be playing, will need to bowl out of their skins if they are to give match winning performances.
On the spin front, Galle has something for spinners too. On the 3rd, 4th and 5th days of the match, the track will become very productive for spinners. Hence it is important for the toss winning side to bat first, see off the early swing and seam and then post a huge total putting the opposition under pressure against spin. It is especially important for India to bat first because if Sri Lanka manage to score 400+ batting first, India will not be able to win this match and will be under tremendous pressure to perform in the final test; this pressure will be so intense that India might well wilt. Kumble said in an interview today that he does not care so much about the toss or conditions- he placed emphasis on the side showing unity and batsmen showing application when playing the spinners.
Yesterday an Indian TV channel showed video clips of net practice where Tendulkar, Dravid and Ganguly were discussing how to play Mendis and Murali. The TV presenter was very critical of these senior players because there was a lot of talking involved, but not so much batting practice. Tendulkar was shown trying to bowl in Murali’s action and letting youngsters practice his bolwing; the TV presenter was also critical of this saying that Tendulkar needs to do some batting practice himself, rather than emulate Murali and coach the youngsters. For most Indian fans though, they will not care so much what the Indian team does in order to prepare as long as they are well geared up to face the M&M effect at Galle.
For the Indian fans, failure is not an option because the effects will be so overwhelming. The greatness of India’s batting, especially when countering spin, will be undermined. Kumble’s captaincy will be questioned and people will demand for Dhoni to be made captain in Tests too (this will have repercussions as well, but it is a completely different topic so it will not be discussed any further in this article). If Kumble does not motivate his players well enough and does not bowl effectively, his career may also be on the line. However, one of the most significant consequences following a defeat will be the effect on Dravid’s career. For a year now Dravid has not looked at his best and age is not on his side either. This may well be his last straw. Even if he performs adequately in this series, he will not be able to carry on playing much longer. Tendulkar always surprises and for various reasons he is indispensable, so he will not be dropped anyhow. Ganguly has had a good run recently so even for him it will not be a career defining series. For Dravid though, the end appears very near unless he can consistently score a few 50’s or 100’s in the forthcoming matches.
On the optimistic side however, India has a record of bouncing back whenever it has been humiliated early on in a series. This is something the Sri Lankan team is very wary of. A statement was made yesterday by the Sri Lankan coach that they will not take India lightly because in the recent past India has been a top team and has always bounced back and startled the opposition. Mendis and Murali will have some tricks up their sleeve, but it remains to be seen how the legendary Indian batsmen Tendulkar, Dravid, Ganguly and Laxman will combat the M&M effect this time round when they have been pushed to the brink. Kumble said today that the series is not over yet, and perhaps narrating Shahrukh Khan’s famous dialogue from the movie “Om Shanti Om” is apt way to end this article…………”Picture abhi baaqi hai, meray dost!”