Sydney: India coach Duncan Fletcher conceded that struggling opener Gautam Gambhir will have to be a "lot more positive" in his approach to come out of his lean patch in the ongoing Test series against Australia, but defended the team's batsmen despite their continuing poor run.
After successive batting failures led to a 122-run loss in the opening Test in Melbourne, India again found themselves tied in knots after collapsing to 191 in the first innings of the second Test on Tuesday.
The openers are expected to blunt the rival attack to ensure that the middle-order gets a sound platform to build on, but in India's case, both Gambhir and Virender Sehwag appear to be playing too many shots rather than log a few overs against the bowlers' name.
Out-of-form Gambhir departed for a duck in the very first over of the first innings in Sydney.
"You need to be very, very careful as you could end up leaving deliveries you can hit. Somebody like Sehwag, if he clicks, can intimidate opposition and give us the base to work on," Fletcher said after the opening day's play.
"As for Gautam, we are working on him to be very positive. It's more mental, he's been very tentative, pushing at deliveries. He's an attacking batter and needs to be a lot more positive in his approach. As for today's ball, it would've been difficult to leave a delivery pitching on leg and going across you. A lot of left-handers could've been out to it."
Gambhir departed for a duck in the very first over and set the tone of India's collapse, which saw the tourists fold up after tea. The only point that the Zimbabwe-born coach was willing to concede, though, was that Rahul Dravid has lost a bit of form and that his batters need to string together bigger partnerships.
"It's crucial when we've a partnership going, we take advantage of it. Whenever it's happening, we are losing wickets. It's crucial, those stands should be extended to 100 and 150 runs," he said. "Batters do try to adapt and at times, they do it. But sometimes it's difficult to concentrate for long period."
"Rahul has a little bit of form here but Sachin (Tendulkar) is striking well. Sometimes you need good fortune...how many times you would see a batsman drag that kind of width on to your stumps? Normally, it would've been put through covers for four. Sometimes the (fortune) goes against us."
Fletcher, however, insisted that struggles of his team is nothing to be surprised about.
"It's just the same as England struggled in India. In India, the opposition has the same problem, adapting to slow conditions and spin bowling. When it seams here, India struggle a bit," stated Fletcher in response to the fact that India have scored 300 only once in 11 Test innings abroad since he has taken over.
Fletcher praised the Australian bowling, but felt spin could prove to be their problem. He also felt India have a good bowling attack in the making, once young bowlers like Umesh Yadav gain enough experience.
"Australia have a useful bowling unit at the moment. They've bowled well. At times, our bowling attack has too. If they gain experience, they will be as useful a unit as Australia is. Australia are developing nicely but they need to develop spinners. We are confident, once Umesh starts going and Ishant is firing, with Zak's (Zaheer Khan) experience there, and the good spinners we have, we have the potential to be a very good bowling attack."
Fletcher rued that Australia captain Michael Clarke, despite the loose start he made, had given his team a good foundation. He said, however, that if India could strike a blow or two on the morning of Day 2, the match could again swing in the visiting team's way.
"If we can get Australia down to same score, and if we bat well in the second innings, we could put pressure on the Australian team", Fletcher said. "While Clarke was very positive, he also played loose shots and could have nicked one early in his innings, and they would've been four down."
The Indian coach also backed the decision of his captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni to bat first in swing-friendly conditions.
"I think it was the right decision. We were confident we wanted to bat on. The first two hours were crucial and they put us in a lot of pressure. You have got to give credit to the Australian bowlers."
Fletcher was also emphatic that Tendulkar's elusive 100th century was not putting any pressure on his side.
"Everyone's supporting Sachin. It's not putting pressure on the rest of the side. You have got to ask Sachin if it is putting pressure on himself. It's also not mentioned in the change room that we've never won in Australia (and that this could be our chance). It might be at the back of the mind but it's not mentioned."