Start of series marred by row

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A simmering row between India's players and their coach, Madan Lal, threatens to ruin their attempt to win the two-Test series against Sri Lanka which starts today.

Lal's public outburst against his team earlier this week, after their eight-wicket thrashing in the Asia Cup final by Arjuna Ranatunga's one- day champions, drew flak from players and officials alike. At a closed- door meeting on Thursday Lal was reportedly taken to task by the angry cricketers for timing the criticism before the first Test in Colombo.

The team manager, Ramakant Shetty, then clamped a media ban on both players and Lal, apparently under orders from senior officials back home. "The team will not speak on the subject any more. Let them concentrate on the cricket now," Shetty said.

A senior player said: "No one questions the right of a coach to be critical of his team, but did he have to make it sound as if he had no faith in the players? Even the timing was all wrong."