With the World Cup looming, all teams have one eye on the mega event going into every ODI they play. Sri Lanka just got an unexpected opportunity to enhance their preparation for the World Cup next year with a five-match ODI series in India. (Also Read: Sri Lanka Tour India 2014: Schedule & Fixtures)
The Lankan team were in the middle of a fitness camp when their tour to India was organized and captain, Angelo Mathews says they will take it as a means to form their team for the 2015 World Cup.
“We were working on our fitness and strength when this tour came up and we will take this as an opportunity to get our combinations right for the World Cup,” Mathews said.
“Winning is important and so is giving opportunities to some of the new guys. We will try out those guys in this series while keeping winning the series in mind.”
Mathews was in particular, referring to his relatively inexperienced bowling attack in this series, which is without left-arm spinner, Rangana Herath, and pacer, Lasith Malinga.
“Rangana Herath one of our experienced bowlers and he is rested for this tour,” Mathews said. “We wanted to give an opportunity to some of the younger spinners like Chaturanga de Silva and Suraj Radiv.
“Lasith Malinga is unfortunately not fit and so wasn’t considered for selection. But yes, he and Rangana form the backbone of our bowling attack.”
While revealing the team’s intentions to try out new players, Mathews maintained that their first priority was to win the series. He hoped the younger players would learn from the India experience and grow from it.
“India is a tough place to tour. Our past experience in India hasn’t been that good and we will try to somehow correct that this time around.
“We don’t have many experienced bowlers on this tour but the young guys will learn because this is a very hard place to play cricket,” he said.
An important feature of the Indian team that the Lankans are up against in this series is the absence of MS Dhoni. The captain has been rested for the tour and the reins of the teams are given in the hands of Virat Kohli. While stressing on the impact Dhoni has on India’s performance, Mathews refuted the suggestion that the hosts will be any weaker for his absence.
“Dhoni is a pillar of strength for the Indian team and we all know what a dangerous player he is. If he is not around, the opposition might think, ‘hang on, we have a chance here’,” Mathews said. “But you cannot be complacent against a team like India thinking that Dhoni is not around.”
The captain was accompanied by coach, Marvan Atapattu, who was a prolific Sri Lankan batsman in his days. As a coach, Atapattu was at the helm of the team that won a Test series in England earlier this year. When asked if their recent success in England combined with India’s struggle in their last tour of that country will have any bearing on this series, he answered in the negative.
“Past is past. You’ve got to live in the present and plan for the future,” Atapattu said. “It was a good feeling to win in England and while India didn’t do too well there, it doesn’t take away the quality and skills that a team has. It was just one series and things like that can happen to any team, no matter how good it is.”
About his own team, Atapattu pointed out the areas that Sri Lanka need to improve on leading into the World Cup.
“We have to improve in our fielding. Bowling is another area that demands a lot of skills these days with all kinds of restrictions around. Also, in batting, if a few other batsmen besides the two senior players (Sangakkara and Jayawardene) and the captain shoulder a bit of burden, we will do better.