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Rival captains Jason Holder of West Indies and Angelo Mathews of Sri Lanka shake hands at the media conference held at Taj Samudra Hotel to launch the Test series. (Pic by Chandana Wijesinghe)

By Sa’adi Thawfeeq

Two wonderfully gifted cricketers and captains of the past Sir Garfield Sobers of West Indies and Michael Tissera of Sri Lanka have been honoured by Sri Lanka Cricket with a trophy being named after them for Test contests between the two countries.

The two nations will vie for trophy which will be presented to the winner of the two-Test series starting at Galle on October 14.

Sir Garfield and Tissera both played their cricket in the late fifties and sixties through to the early seventies before they retired from the game.

Sobers became a legend with his outstanding all-rounder exploits which made him one the greatest all-rounder in the history of the game.

Tissera, a stylish right-hander and leg-spin bowler also played in the same era as Sobers but unfortunately his cricket was confined to playing unofficial tests as Sri Lanka were then not a full member country of the ICC.

West Indies’ new captain Jason Holder said the name of Sir Garry would certainly inspire his young team to perform well against Sri Lanka.

“It’s a huge honour to have a trophy named after Sir Garry. It will surely go a long way into the team dressing room. We got some pretty young faces in our squad and a lot of them look up to the past greats who played the game,” said Holder at the press conference held at Taj Samudra in Colombo.

“I am sure no doubt we’ll have an all rounder coming out of the series portraying the same things which Sir Garfield Sobers portrayed when he played and go from strength to strength. One thing I am interested in is unity and hopefully we can grow as a side and leave a legacy behind for everyone of us.”

The loss of head coach Phil Simmons weeks before the team’s departure to Sri Lanka, Holder admitted had been a setback to his team’s preparations. Simmons was suspended by the West Indies Cricket Board for critising team selections.

“No doubt it’s a bit of a setback for us but at this present stage all we can do is to focus on our cricket,” said Holder. “It’s out of our control we just want to go out and play good cricket. Hopefully the situation will be resolved quickly because we love to have him (Simmons) back, he’s an inspiration to our team.

“But again it’s upto us to play our cricket because it is the only thing we can control. We are a young group and a lot of them are looking to make their mark in Test cricket. It’s a stepping stone for them to focus in this particular series.”

Holder said the strength in the side was their bowling but put it down to even-stevens with the batting also performing well.

“In the last series we really bowled well against England. We also got some runs on the board its pretty much even-stevens with our batting and our bowling. We have to be consistent in the series. Whenever we bat or bowl we need to put the ball in the right areas, it’s the key to the series.”

With so many of the members in the squad touring Sri Lanka for the first time including Holder, the West Indian captain said the three-day warm up game against a Sri Lanka Board President’s XI starting at the SSC on October 8 was “really important”.

“It’s our first game since we been here and we can guage and see where we are in these conditions. Hopefully the rain stays away and we can get the practice we want ahead of the Test match,” said Holder. “Our batsmen and bowlers need to spend some time in the middle and hopefully we can make use of this match and be ready for the first Test on October 14.”

Sri Lanka captain Angelo Mathews said that the absence of Chris Gayle from the West Indie side was a plus factor for his team.

“Chris is a massive player for the Windies and he’s performed so well in the past so many years. It’s going to be a great loss but we can’t be complacent against the Windies because they can beat any team any day, we just have to play very good cricket to beat them,” said Mathews.

This will be the first Test series for Sri Lanka without two of their legends Mahela Jayawardene and Kumar Sangakkara, both retired from international cricket and the onus will heavily fall on the shoulders of Mathews.

“As long as I score runs that’s my job for the team it doesn’t really affect me where I bat,” said Mathews when asked whether he would change his batting order from the customary no. 5.

Mathews hoped the bowlers would continue to bowl the way they did against Pakistan and India.

“The whole bowling unit has done extremely well in the past year or so it’s the batting that haven’t clicked, hopefully we can rectify that in this series,” said Mathews. “If the bowlers continue to bowl the way they did we can put a lot of pressure on the Windies batsmen.”

West Indies will play two Tests, three ODIs and two T20Is during their tour.