GALLE, Monday – Intermittent showers that has hampered practices of both Sri Lanka and England ahead of today’s first Test at the Galle International Stadium threatens to spoil the farewell of legendary Sri Lankan left-arm spinner Rangana Herath who will retire at the end of the Test.
Herath who is the leading left-arm spinner in Test cricket has decided to bring the curtain down on his distinguished international cricket career that has lasted for nearly two decades at Galle - the venue where it all began for him when he made his Test debut against Steve Waugh’s Australians in 1999.
England captain Joe Root at yesterday’s press conference at Galle. – AFP
No doubt like his predecessor Muthiah Muralitharan who also bade his Test farewell at Galle eight years ago, Herath would also want to sign off on a winning note by bowling his country to victory for the last time in his career.
But with the weather forecast for the next few days not being all that great the chances of the Test going the full distance is doubtful.
The Galle pitch is known to be a spinners paradise but in the current context of the prevailing bad weather how much of assistance it would provide the spinners is questionable although the pitch has been shaved to the last millimetre of grass and covered with gunny bags to soak up whatever moisture there is beneath the surface to make the playing area as dry as possible.
The big question for both teams is whether they should go with three spinners or two. Sri Lanka have besides Herath, Dilruwan Perera, Akila Dananjaya and Lakshan Sandakan while England have to option of playing Moeen Ali, Adil Rashid, Jack Leach who bowls slow left-arm orthodox like Herath and Joe Denly who figured in the ODIs.
Comparing the spinners of both sides Sri Lanka skipper Dinesh Chandimal said that Sri Lanka had a slight edge over England on experience.
“They have played so much of One Day cricket and that’s the plus point they had in the ODI series. But when you come to the Test format, we’ve got so much of experience with Rangana and Dilruwan. That’s why I say we’re far ahead in the Test format than the One- dayers,” said Chandimal.
“When you look at the Test records in the last couple of years, both teams are equal. When you’re playing in Sri Lanka, definitely the spinners will come into play. Gong by that point, we can be ahead of England. At the same time, we have a few game plans also but the most important thing is to execute them. If we can do that, we can give them a good fight in the Test series,” he said.
CAPTAINS NON-COMMITTAL ON TEAMS
Both captains Chandimal and Joe Root were non-committal when asked about the team compositions.
“When you look at the Galle pitch, it’s always turning and helpful to spinners. We didn’t see the pitch for two days and we have to come tomorrow morning and decide to play whether two spinners or three spinners,” said Chandimal.
England fast bowler James Anderson leaves the Galle International Stadium after rain prevented any practice yesterday. – AFP
England captain Root was also skeptical about his team’s composition. “It all depends on the weather in the next five days I still think spin is going to play a huge part. When it’s been tacky here in the past the pitch still spun and we’ve just got to adapt very well, very quickly and read the situation.”
“The guys are very aware that turning up at every match you got to make the most of the chances you get to prepare and I think we’ve done that very well throughout the tour till this game. Of course it will be disappointing not to have that. You might think that you got everything covered but that might not be the case here, you have to be adaptable, its part and parcel of Test cricket and playing here at this time of the year there is no real excuse for going into tomorrow feeling undercooked. We have done some really good stuff till now and there has to be enough even if we don’t get a chance to practice today,” said Root.
“We have a balanced squad with plenty of different options. Whichever 11 we go with we are going to be blessed with that. From that point of view I feel like we are very well prepared for whatever surfaces is thrown at us. It’s just about trying and exploiting that to the best of our ability.”
‘RANGANA A GOOD HUMAN BEING’
Commenting on Herath’s last Test match Chandimal said, “It’s really sad for me and the team. We all know how much he has done for cricket in this country. Apart from that, he is a really good human being on and off the field. Especially for me, when I took over the captaincy, he gave me lot of support on and off the field. We will definitely miss him after this test.”
Chandimal said the team had some plans up their sleeve but was reluctant to reveal it because they wanted to keep it as a surprise.
“We have few things under our sleeve. We don’t want to reveal all because we want him to be surprised. Definitely we’re going to do something. The main thing is, if we can win this game and the series that will be a really good farewell for him. That’s what the team is looking forward to,” Chandimal said.
This is the first test England will play without former captain and opener Alastair Cook who retired at the end of England’s last Test series against India and Sri Lanka will hope to capitalise on his absence.
“That’s one advantage we’ve got. We all know how good Alastair is. Definitely they (England) will lose his experience of playing in Sri Lanka. But we don’t want to underestimate them. We just want to focus on our plans and execute them when we get the chance,” Chandimal said.
ROOT ON COOK AND HERATH
On Cook’s absence Root said, “This is my first Test match without Alastair, a big loss in terms of experience and everything that he brings to the squad and the team. It’s a great opportunity for someone else to try and make that spot their own. Of course we miss him.”
Paying tribute to Herath , Root said, “We obviously do like to do something for him make sure that he is given the respect that he deserves. He’s had a fantastic career over 19 years phenomenal really, great longevity. He’s produced whatever at the backend of his career in particular shows how valuable he’s been to Sri Lanka cricket. That shouldn’t be overseen by the opposition from our point of view. Respect certainly there is a brilliant competitor and he’s done some special things for Sri Lanka and that should be noticed.”
“We want to make sure the series as we mean to go on and get the players to play in the situation surface and try not to look too much into his (Herath) being his last Test. Of course there will be a lot of noise around him and it being his last game, but we’ve got to play 11 Sri Lankan players and all equally affect the game and respect must be there for the whole team.”