‘Preparation for India not ideal’

Angelo Mathews

Sri Lanka captain Angelo Mathews has said that his team does not have an ideal preparation for the upcoming tour of India as they were concentrating on fitness, and not skills, during the break from international cricket.

After their series against Pakistan in August, the Sri Lankan players were in the midst of fitness training sessions with the next series coming up against England at home from late next month. But they were told by their Board to get ready for the five-ODI series tour of India, beginning November 2.

Mathews said that there has not been sufficient preparation for the November 2-16 ODI series against India, which was hurriedly arranged after the West Indies team decided to abandon their tour midway over the players’ pay dispute with the West Indies Cricket Board.

“Our preparation for the series is not that great. We only had a few practice sessions, especially with the weather interrupting. It is not the ideal preparation for an Indian tour but we will do our best,” he said.

“We were preparing for the England series because we knew that there were no tours before that. We were focussed mainly on fitness and we just started batting three days ago. We’ve only had a few skill-training sessions. We needed to reach our peak levels during the England series but now that we’ve been thrown a challenge, we will try our best to be as much prepared as we can,” Mathews was quoted as saying by a Sri Lankan daily.

Mathews said that Kumar Sangakkara was struggling with a back injury and there was a possibility of Niroshan Dickwella keeping wickets.

“Sanga will keep wickets and if Dickwella plays he will play as a batsman. Sanga is struggling a little bit with his back as well. That’s why we need to carry a reserve wicket keeper,” said the 27-year-old allrounder who has scored 3013 runs at an average of 38.13 and taken 80 wickets in 133 ODIs.

“Sanga is having a small disc problem in his back but it’s nothing serious. He is getting better every day. So, hopefully, he will be okay. We might have to monitor him in the next few days to check if he can keep. Otherwise we will have to play Dickwella,” he said.

Mathews warned that his team cannot lower their guard against the Indians despite captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni being rested for the first three ODIs.

“Dhoni is a great strength to the Indian team. If he is rested, we have a very good chance. But we still cannot be complacent because we all know that India is a difficult place to play cricket,” said Mathews.

“We had bad experiences in the past. We will try and play positive cricket.”

Sri Lanka has not beaten India in India in a bilateral ODI series. Their best performance has been a draw in a three-match series — 1-1 in 1997.

In Dhoni’s absence, the Indian captaincy has been handed to Virat Kohli, who has been a thorn in the Lankan flesh in the recent past. Kohli has relished the Lankan bowling so much that he enjoys a batting average of 52.65 and a strike rate of 85.16 in ODI contests against them.

Mathews stated that the team was well aware of the impact Kohli can make on his team and that they were making a few plans ahead of the series.

“The spinners are having a chat with Piyal Wijetunge (spin bowling coach) and the fast bowlers are having chats with Chaminda Vaas (fast bowling coach) to make plans. We have a few more days to make plans for each and every batter,” said Mathews.

The Sri Lankans leave for India on Tuesday and commence the tour with a one-day practice game against India A in Mumbai on October 30 before beginning the five-match ODI series in November 2 in Cuttack.

“We had a good break to improve on our physical fitness; a good month and a half fitness session and now, we have to maintain that fitness. I am sure during the Indian matches we won’t be able to do strenuous training as we did in the past one and a half months but we will try and maintain it and look at it positively,” said Mathews.

He, however, said that India series could be beneficial for next year’s World Cup in Australia and New Zealand.

“We will try to use (India) series to keep our momentum going as well as try and get our World Cup combinations right. That will be our main focal point.” (PTI)