Colombo: India may have lost three quick wickets in the second innings but Sunil Gavaskar believes the visitors are in a good position to beat Sri Lanka in the third and final Test and it is the weather that will be the deciding factor.
Building on their 111-run first-innings lead, India were in trouble at 21 for three at stumps on Day 3. The Indian bowling though, ably led by Ishant Sharma's five-wicket haul, did manage to bundle out Lanka for 201 and Gavaskar believes the crucial lead will benefit the visitors.
"I think they are in reasonably good position despite losing three wickets in the second innings. The lead that they took is going to be very handy indeed. Even if they get dismissed for another 125-150 runs, that will still be a good enough lead to get the wickets. But of course, the weather is going to be a good question," Gavaskar told NDTV.
"We have now had three days interrupted by rain, the first day was almost washed out. So the probably the rains are going to be the deciding factor. If the weather holds then India will win," he added.
Responding to India's 312, Sri Lanka were in tatters at 47 for six, when debatant wicketkeeper-batsman Kusal Perera (55) and Rangana Herath (49) stitched a 79-run seventh-wicket partnership to give the hosts some respectability. Even when many believes that the Indian bowlers left Lanka on the hook, Gavaskar defended the bowling.
"If you see Sri Lanka also had the same problem in dismissing Amit Mishra and Cheteshwar Pujara. See what tends to happen is that you are used bowling in a certain way, line and length and when you are attacked, like when Kusal Perera did you try and change your line and length and that's what happens and it plays in the hands of the batsmen," said Gavaskar.
Wrecker-in-chief Ishant (5-54) bagged his seventh five wicket haul in Test cricket to put up the best performance by an Indian seamer on Sri Lankan soil. Gavaskar said it's no big deal that Ishant is termed as the leader of the pack.
"Yes, he should, because he has now been playing for the last 8 or 9 years. The most experienced Test player in the world, so he has to be the leader of the pack," he said on being asked about Ishant leading the pace attack.
"What was the most impressive thing about him today was that he bowled a much fuller line and if you look at the dismissals they have all been where the batsman has been drawn forward and has had no chance to change the shot. The way he got (Upul) Tharanga, (Lahiru) Thirimanne, I think brilliant deliveries.
"If he continues to bowl that way, look occasionally he will overpitch with that fuller length, but at the same time if he overpitches with the new ball he might still get the batsmen to get an inside edge on to the stumps. So I think he should be preparted to get driven on the odd occasion for a boundary. That risk is worth the reward he will get," he added.
The former skipper though was critical of the verbal duel involving Ishant and Perera that could cost Ishant a match suspension as he is already been given a 65 per cent fine in the previous game.
"I think the Indian players can afford that (match-fee fine) but that's not the issue. I think what you do not want in a situation like this is one for you to lose your objective, that is to take wickets and you could see Ishant had lost that focus.
"You could see that he was trying to do different things and he had lost that line. It can effect the team and suppose you are suspended for a match then it's not good. Aggression and passion should be tempered with common sense," he said.
The legendary opener also opined that captain Virat Kohli should step up to number three in the batting order to be an exemplary leader.
"It's for him to show the way. He bats at No 3 in ODIs, if hadn't been batting at No 3 in one-dayers then I would have held my horses and say no he is batting at 4. He has got to lead from the front and that's why he needs to come at No.3.
"You can argue that Ajinkya Rahane got a century at No.3 but you saw when ball started swinging, on flat picthes Ajinkya may be the thing but really it's up to him and the team management to decide," he said.