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The 400-year-old Galle Fort looms up as Kumar Sangakkara practices at the Galle International Stadium in preparation for Wednesday’s first Test against Pakistan. (Pic Ishara Kodikara, AFP)

Sa’adi Thawfeeq reporting from Galle

GALLE: The great Kumar Sangakkara’s impending retirement from international cricket is set to overshadow the three-match Test series between Sri Lanka and Pakistan that commences at Galle on Wednesday.

Although the incomparable left-hander will not be retiring during the series the hype building up towards his retirement has already begun.

Contrary to all what has been written and said about Sangakkara’s retirement, Sri Lanka captain Angelo Mathews stuck a cord of uncertainty when he said that the former Sri Lanka captain has still to make a final decision of his retirement.

“Firstly he hasn’t still decided whether this is going to be his last three Tests. He is going to have a chat with the selectors and make a decision after that,” said Mathews at the pre-Test conference on Tuesday.

“Whatever he decides we have to respect it. He has earned the right to decide where he wants to do it and where he wants to end his career.

“It’s going to be a tough ask for all of us to fill his void and Mahela’s (Jayawardene), the amount of service they have rendered for Sri Lanka cricket we cannot really thank them for that.

“What we need to do is give the young players some time and show some patience. Maturity only comes to a cricketer the more he plays. I’m confident all our cricketers will play well in the games coming up.

“As a team, and as a captain, we’ve talked about being patient with the younger players without expecting huge things in the short term. If we give them that time, they’ll come good,” Mathews said.

The series with Pakistan will be Sri Lanka’s first in international cricket since the 2015 World Cup ended in March,

“We can be a bit rusty but it’s not an excuse,” admitted Mathews. “We trained pretty hard in the last couple of months, but it was a refreshing break.

“We had a good couple of weeks completely off then we started training with our fitness and went onto skill training. It’s definitely worth having a little break to refresh ourselves.”

Although Sri Lanka ran out easy winners 2-0 the last time the two countries met, Mathews admitted this time around it was going to be a very tough series.

“We have to play really well to beat Pakistan. They are not easy wherever you play so we have to be on our guard all the time and give it our best shot to win against them,” said Mathews.

“Pakistan are no strangers playing in Sri Lanka, they are quite used to the conditions. We need to play well in all three departments fielding especially will be important we need to grab hold of all the chances that come our way.

“We will try and be clinical that’s our target. If we do our processes right we don’t have to worry too much about the result, we should be able to beat them.”

Although Pakistan’s key spinner Saeed Ajmal is missing from their line-up Mathews thinks they have plenty of artillery in their line-up to trouble Sri Lanka.

The left-arm spinner (Zulfiqar Babar) and leg spinner (Yasir Shah) look really good. We can’t be complacent and take them lightly,” said Mathews.

“We all know what Ajmal could do but those two bowlers are extremely good and we need to play really well to score against them. We’ve got to play them first and see how it goes.”

Sri Lanka are likely to go into the Test with two fast bowlers (Prasad and Pradeep) and two spinners (Herath and Dilruwan). The spot that is up for grabs is the no. 7 slot for which Kithuruwan Vithanage is heavily favoured to occupy ahead of Kusal Perera and Jehan Mubarak.

The probable Sri Lanka line up: Dimuth Karunaratne, Kaushal Silva, Kumar Sangakkara, Lahiru Thirimanne, Angelo Mathews, Dinesh Chandimal (wk), Kithuruwan Vithanage, Dhammika Prasad, Rangana Herath, Dilruwan Perera, Nuwan Pradeep.

Pictures By Ishara S Kodikara (AFP)

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