Muralitharan to put barren start in India behind him

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The Independent Online

Having been on the receiving end of close to 1500 runs in last week's first Test, it is little wonder the captains of both India and Sri Lanka have leapt to the defence of their beleaguered – and weary – bowlers ahead of today's second game in Kanpur.

Attention has been focussed on the poor form of each side's spinners, particularly India's Amit Mishra and, notably, Muttiah Muralitharan, who went wicketless through 38 finger-shredding second-innings overs in Ahmedabad as the home side held out for a draw.

"It was pretty tough work for the bowlers," said Mahendra Singh Dhoni, India's captain. "I am satisfied with our spinners. The greatest bowler Muralitharan, was in the opposition, bowling on a fifth-day pitch and even he produced no results."

Muralitharan stands 14 short of becoming the first man to take 800 Test wickets, but India has rarely proved a happy hunting ground for the great man. He averages 42.58 from his nine Tests there, which is close to double his career average. In India, the 37-year-old takes a wicket every 86 balls compared to one every 55 throughout the course of his 130 Tests. "I don't see him as struggling," responded Sri Lanka captain Kumar Sangakkara. "He is finding himself in a new way in the series. When you got a legend in your side you got to depend on him but there will always be expectations."

Australia play their first Test since losing the Ashes against West Indies in Brisbane on Thursday. Mitchell Johnson, who arrived in England as one of the tourists' key match-winners, has revealed how he struggled mentally to cope with the pressure, particularly in the second Test at Lord's before which his mother and girlfriend bizarrely exchanged insults via the media.

"I guess it started off with the personal side of things," said Johnson. "That probably really did get to me. I was denying it at the time, and copping it from the crowd didn't help. It was just the Ashes: the whole hype of it and the personal things that came out. It was mostly through Lord's where I felt that pressure."