New Delhi: Terming India's loss in the Galle Test as "terrible", former captain Sunil Gavaskar on Saturday said that it's time the team management stops the "aggressive and tentative talk" and focuses on playing good cricket.
A listless India capitulated to an embarrassing 63-run defeat to concede lead in the three-match series. Chasing 176 for a win on Day 4, India crashed to 112 all out as Rangana Herath bagged seven wickets.
"I think we should stop talking about aggressiveness, tentativeness and whatever, I think we should just focus on the game and start playing the game. We don't have to justify anything to anybody as to the kind of cricket you are going to play. You have got to play cricket that suits your team, that suits the position that the team is in, suits the pitch that you are playing on and suits the opposition that you are playing against," Gavaskar told NDTV.
"And that is the only way to play cricket and all this talk about aggressive cricket, this and that cricket really has to be shut out now and you have to just focus on good cricket. That is the most important thing, play good cricket, doesn't matter if it's defensive cricket, aggressive cricket, at the end of the day you want your team to win, it's as simple as that," he added.
After bundling out Sri Lanka for 183 in the first innings, India replied with 375 to take a 192-run lead. But an unbeaten 162 by Dinesh Chandimal gave the hosts the will to fightback and the spinners turned it around to provide the final punch.
"It would have to be one of the terrible losses that India suffered. Because after you take a big lead like this then you are expected to win the match. But clearly, despite taking that huge lead, India were just not able to step up in both the second innings, when they were bowling to the Sri Lankans and when they batted in the fourth innings. And I did say that if India were set around 170 then it would be a very tough challenge," said the legendary opener.
Gavaskar still believes that India have the talent to bounce back in the next two matches.
"I think and hope that India can bounce back. Because this is a kind of loss that can demoralise the team. And as I keep saying, 'you lose the first Test, you are always playing catch-up'. This is going to be huge for Virat and Ravi Shastri to lift the team's morale, to get them to believe in themselves, to believe that they can come back.
"The example of the Sri Lankans in the second innings is what they should be showing to the Indian team. Look at the way they bounced back and the Indian team certainly has the talent to bounce back. They just got to start believing in themselves," he said.
Gavaskar also praised Sri Lankan players for their fighting qualities.
"Before looking and pointing fingers at the Indian team we should give credit to the Sri Lankans. They were not daunted by the lead that India had taken of 192 and they were very very positive despite the fact that also lost wickets at the end of the second days play, when they lost those two wickets. The way (Kumar) Sangakkara and (Angelo) Mathews played, steadied the ship, allowed (Dinesh) Chandimal and (Lahiru) Thirimanne, later on after these two senior players got out, to play freely, Gavaskar said.
"Jehan Mubarak comes and plays a very good innings, so the Sri Lankans need to be given credit for not being overawed and daunted by the huge lead that the Indians had taken," he added.
Kohli might be getting flak for persisting with an out-of-form Rohit SHarma, but Gavaskar backed the skipper's faith in the young batsman.
"I think if you have a look at how Virat Kohli's Test career shaped up, then you will have to say that maybe his trust, his faith in Rohit Sharma is justified. Virat, remember for a half-a-dozen Test matches, didn't look as if he was going to get the kind of runs that he is getting now," he said.
"Rohit Sharma on the other hand started his Test career with a bang, two back-to-back hundreds and after that he was inconsistent. He got a couple of fifties but hasn't got those big hundreds. But atleast we have seen that he is capable of the big shots, capable of playing the big innings and Virat, if the captain has trust and faith in you I think you got to back that.
"So I would back Virat as far as his faith in Rohit Sharma is concerned, for the simple reason that perhaps he is thinking of his own career. How the first half-a-dozen Test matches went for him before he got that hundred and before he got the consistency with which he is now getting the hundreds," he added.
On asked about India's ploy to add an extra batsman in the next Test, Gavaskar reiterated his 'horses for courses' theory.
"That is something that the pitch will dictate. From here we can't say that we need an extra batsman or not. In the first innings with the five batsman they got almost 400 runs, so it's not as if an extra batsman was missed. Wriddhiman Saha batting at six also got a good score. So I think it's horses for courses," he said.