Sri Lanka hope to bring all the positives gained from their tour of England into the three Test series against Australia which is scheduled to begin with the first game in Pallakele on July 26.
Aussies are a force in any form of cricket and do their homework needed to know all about the opposition. It’s no secret that the hosts are recovering from the battering they received in England. However, Sri Lanka coach Graham Ford sees positives from the tour of the UK and told media representatives at a pre-Test press briefing on Wednesday (July 13) that he hoped to see whether the progress made in England would continue during the series against Australia.
The biggest reason for concern in the Sri Lankan camp is injuries to the majority of members in the pace battery. Dhammika Prasad, Dushmantha Chameera, Shaminda Eranga and Suranga Lakmal are out with injury which leaves the selectors, coach and captain scratching their heads to see whether they can find replacements to fill voids in the pace bowling line-up. Coach Ford said that it would be a concern when bowling to take 20 wickets in a Test given that there are so many injuries to the bowlers. The Test series between the two cricketing nations is played for the Warne-Murali Trophy.
Thank God that Sri Lanka has so many over enthusiastic Test cricket hopefuls playing junior and senior cricket around the country. There is so much talent for cricket in this country, but how that is going to be channeled into the sport at national level needs to be done with care. Imagine pushing a budding cricketer into the national side to make his debut against Australia, rated as the number one Test playing nation. ‘Break’ might be the word that best describes the immediate future of any rookie who is slotted into the side for this series. From a statistic perspective Sri Lanka is rated seventh in Test cricket rankings.
Not very long ago junior players making the grade had the luxury of playing alongside reputed seniors like Mahela Jayawardena, Kumar Sangakkara, Tillakaratne Dilshan, Chaminda Vaas and Nuwan Kulasekare to name a few. Now it’s a sink or swim situation for the new faces in the side. However, Ford said at the press briefing that cricket at junior level is good and its players can step up to the challenge if needed.
Skipper Angelo Mathews gave some hope for cricket fans when he said, “We know our conditions well. We also have to get used to the hot weather again after returning from England.” For the record, Australia has set foot in the host nation early and are hard at practice under the watchful eyes of coach Darren Lehmann and bowling coach Alan Donald. Australia skipper Steve Smith said, “We’ve got plenty of time to prepare so there is no room for excuses.”
Australia last played a Test series in Sri Lanka back in 2011. The Aussies are a giant Test playing nation, but skipper Smith admitted that Australia have not fared well in sub-continent conditions. Coach Lehmann said that the present series is going to be a tough tour of the sub-continent.
Sri Lanka should take pride in producing some of the best cricketers in the world. We saw a good number of them retire in recent years, but their service, in some form, is still sought by other cricket playing nations. Legendary spinner Muttiah Muralidaran has made a commitment to play the role of consultant in the Aussie camp. He will use all his skills and the knowledge he has about Sri Lanka cricket to make Australia ready to face Sri Lanka in the three Test series which will be followed by five ODIs and two T20 Internationals. Murali is now a professional coach, and the islanders should not hold anything against him for being in the opposition camp now. The description used by coach Lehmann in saying, “Murali is a fantastic coach” says loads about the knowledge that the former Sri Lankan spinner brings to the ‘table’.
Playing against Australia or simply watching them at cricket is an absorbing experience. There is so much to learn from the men wearing the baggy green cap. For all what’s worth, this series is going to be a cracker and the interest for it will fast surpass the attention Sri Lankans are at present giving topics like dengue and VAT which are discussed on a daily basis.