Sri Lanka cricket which has been on the wane since the current administration was elected to office 19 months ago will be looking for some sort of salvation with the change of the national captaincy.
With Angelo Mathews stepping down from the hot seat after 4½ years following the stunning 3-2 defeat his team suffered at the hands of Zimbabwe in the one-day international series, the onus is now on the shoulders of 27-year-old Dinesh Chandimal to resurrect the fortunes of Sri Lanka cricket in the Test circuit.
Chandimal who’s had his ups and downs as a cricketer in his short international career will make his debut as Sri Lanka’s 15th Test captain when he leads the country in the one-off Test against Zimbabwe at the R Premadasa Stadium today.
Sri Lanka won’t settle for anything less than a win to at least compensate for the loss in the one-day series and to give them the much needed fillip to face tougher opposition later this month when they front up to India in a three-match Test series.
The last Test played by Sri Lanka in March ended in a loss to Bangladesh by four wickets at the P Sara Oval. Now with a new captain in place Sri Lanka will be hoping for a change of fortunes.
“As a player and a captain I will sacrifice my time and my effort to make sure Sri Lanka reclaims a good place. I need a little time for that,” said Chandimal at his first pre-match press conference at the R Premadasa Stadium yesterday. “I am hopeful that with the players I have, I can take Sri Lankan cricket to where it used to be.
“My final goal is to take the team to no. 1 in the world. We can’t do that in one day or one year. We have to work hard with our cricket to get there. We have young players, and we have to give them experience along the way. We have to take it step by step – go to no. 6 first, then 5 and so on,” he said.
Unlike in the ODIs, Sri Lanka have two quality and experienced spinners in their line up to worry the Zimbabwe batsmen in left-armer Rangana Herath and off-spinner Dilruwan Perera. Herath is the key to Sri Lanka’s chances of winning. It was he who destroyed the Zimbabwe batting when he led his country in the last Test series played between the two countries in Zimbabwe.
Herath scalped 19 wickets including 13 in one Test that gave his team a 2-0 clean sweep in the short series.
“The Zimbabwe batsmen played very well particular during the five ODIs. We can’t underestimate them. But we do have Rangana Herath in our Test team, who is an extremely experienced player,” said Chandimal.
“We also have Dilruwan Perera. I don’t think we will let Zimbabwe get into rhythm too easily. We have plans against them, and we have good spinners. So I’m hoping we can bowl well and restrict them.”
With Test cricket returning to the R Premadasa Stadium after four years, Chandimal said, “Sometimes it can be tough to identify the nature of a pitch completely. We think it will spin, but it won’t spin as early as we think, or sometimes it will spin even before we have predicted. As a captain you have to be prepared to make those decisions. That’s a decision you make depending on the conditions.”
In that context Chandimal said, “When you look at the pitch, I think we will have to play seven batsmen and four bowlers. We also looked at the previous Tests here. I’m not sure if we’ll play two spinners and two quicks, or whether we’ll go with three quicks and one spinner. That’s something for deciding tomorrow, after we get to the ground. But there is a big chance we’ll go with two spinners and two quicks.”
Chandimal confirmed that Upul Tharanga will open the batting with Dimuth Karunaratne and added, “Probably we will have Asela Gunaratne among the seven batsmen as well, because he can bowl also, if we need him”.
That could mean 26-year-old Danushka Gunathilaka who has played in 26 ODIs for his country will have to wait for his Test debut.
The Lankan line-up is expected to read like: Karunaratne, Tharanga, Mendis, Chandimal, Mathews, Gunaratne, Dickwella (wk), Herath, Perera, Lakmal, Chameera/Kumara.(Daily News)