Feb 8/10

We will try to win, onus now on batsmen: Kirsten


India coach Gary Kirsten believes his team can still win the first Test against South Africa and said the onus is now on the batsmen to
bring the home side back into the match.

In reply to South Africa's massive first innings total of 558 for six declared, India were 25 for no loss after the second day's play.

Kirsten said the Indians should bat themselves back into the contention on Monday.

"We certainly will give the best shot to win the game. We need to bat well. That's going to be very important," Kirsten said.

"There is lot of work to do on the batting side. A couple of guys have to apply themselves and get big scores on board. We know we are capable of doing that. It's a big day from the batting perspective tomorrow," said the South African at the end of the second day's play.

India's task would be even more difficult since the middle order is missing injured veterans Rahul Dravid and VVS Laxman but Kirsten seemed to have enough trust in the ability of young substitutes S Badrinath and Murali Vijay.

"(In Dravid and Laxman) you got two batsmen who have played over 100 Tests each and obviously you are going to miss their experience. But I think it's a great opportunity for the likes of Vijay and Badrinath to do something. They are quality players. It's a great opportunity what they can manage against a top-ranked international team," Kirsten said.

Even though the Indian bowlers looked pedestrian for the second successive day, Kirsten sprung to their defence and said he was happy with both the fast and slow bowlers.

"The guys bowled their hearts out. I thought Amit Mishra bowled really very well for no wicket. He went past the outside edge, I don't know how many times. You have days like that when you don't really get the results you want, but from a coach's point of view I was pretty happy with the effort that we put in," he said.

"All the bowlers bowled really well. I thought Harbhajan's rhythm was fantastic. He was a bit unlucky," he added.

About the absence of a fifth frontline bowler on the slow-paced pitch, the India coach said the team had produced good results in recent times with a four-pronged attack.

"In the last 15 Tests we have not played a fifth bowler, except one Test in Bangladesh. We have got a pretty good record without the fifth bowler," he replied.

He said the idea today was to keep the runs under check and his bowlers have succeeded in doing that.

"From 291 for two (overnight South Africa score) we had to get wickets or keep the run-rate down. We were not getting that many wickets and so were happy to keep the run-rate down to reasonable level," he said.

Kirsten was also effusive in his praise for South African batsmen Jacques Kallis (173) and Hasim Amla, who hit a career-best unbeaten 253.

"Kallis and Amla batted exceptionally well. If the batting from the other side is really good, you got to acknowledge that. Two guys applied themselves and did a fantastic job to get the big partnership going," Kirsten said.

Asked about Amla, with whom he had worked earlier, Kirsten said he always believed in his ability.

"I always thought he was a fine player. We knew when his time will come he's going to get big hundreds for his country. He's proved what he's capable of doing. It was a superb innings. Even in domestic cricket he was getting big hundreds. (I give) full credit to him," he said.

On the decision to leave out Laxman, even though the right-hander practised in the nets, Kirsten said the stylish Hyderabadi was not match-fit.

"He was not fully fit, not match fit. He could hit some balls. The decision taken by the management and him is that he was not ready for a Test match," Kirsten said.

Talking about the track at the VCA Stadium, the coach said there already was some turn in it but the South African batsmen proved there was nothing to panic.

"I think it's taking some turn but, as the South African batsmen showed it, not that it was out of hand. It's up to us to bat as well as we can. We did see balls that turned a fair amount, but we expected it at some stage," he said.

He also thought the South African fast bowlers would find it difficult to bowl threatening bouncers on this wicket.

"You have to dig it really short to get it up. There's very little bounce on the wicket," he said.