One-day wonders step in to give Lankans positive vibe
Welcome addition … leg spinner Ajantha Mendis. Photo: AFP
SRI LANKA will start the ODI series comforted by the fact their achievements in 50-over cricket in Australia easily trump their poor Test record Down Under.
This summer will be the third in succession that Sri Lanka have visited Australia. They won the 2010-11 ODI series preceding the Ashes, and last summer, while losing the tri-series final to Australia, they actually boasted a superior head-to-head record: four wins compared with three for Australia.
Sri Lanka coach Graham Ford said that although his side had been beaten 3-0 in the Tests, the influx of new players - most notably slinging seamer Lasith Malinga and spinner Ajantha Mendis - would help ensure they began the series on Friday in Melbourne with a positive mindset.
''We get a few new, fresh faces, which is always welcome, especially when things haven't gone all that well,'' Ford said. ''A couple of high-quality one-day players come into the system.
''Some of our Test players that are going to be playing in the one-dayers have found some really good form as well, particularly during this [Sydney] Test. There's quite a bit to be positive about.
''We need to regroup pretty quickly and get the energy focused on one-day cricket. We tend to prefer the short formats of the game anyway; we've got some really skilful one-day players. It would have been really nice to have Kumar [Sangakkara] in the group as well, but his absence gives an opportunity to a couple of the younger guys.''
Ford agreed Sri Lanka would take encouragement that four of Australia's key players from their SCG Test win - Michael Clarke, Mike Hussey, David Warner and Matthew Wade - will be missing from the first two matches due either to injury, being rested or, in the case of Hussey, international retirement, which officially does not begin until the end of the summer.
''We've got to concentrate on our cricket,'' Ford said. ''Whatever team Australia puts on the field, that's up to them. But a couple of those names are real match-winners in their own right and it is a bit of a comfort knowing they're not going to be around.''
Ford said Mendis - a leg spinner who can spin the ball in either direction thanks to his unconventional bowling action, but who has not bowled in Australia before - was not guaranteed to be selected in tandem with Rangana Herath. However, he backed the 27-year-old to succeed if pitch conditions and Australia's likely line-up was conducive to a dual-spin attack throughout the five-match series.
''With those two, they're both high-class and quality bowlers, so to have them in the bowling unit would be a big plus,'' he said. ''It [Mendis's selection] depends on the nature of the surface that's presented to us. But he's got that mystery about him, so whatever surface you're on there's always some element of doubt in the batsman's mind, and when he's got to play aggressively and positively that can lead to his downfall. I'm sure he will be a success.''
Seamers Nuwan Kulasekara and Shaminda Eranga will have to prove they have overcome the rib (Kulasekara) and ankle (Eranga) injuries that kept them out of the Sydney Test.
Sri Lanka: Mahela Jayawardene (c), Angelo Mathews (vc), Dinesh Chandimal, Akila Dananjaya, Tillakaratne Dilshan, Shaminda Eranga, Rangana Herath, Nuwan Kulasekara, Suranga Lakmal, Lasith Malinga, Ajantha Mendis, Jeevan Mendis, Kushal Perera, Thisara Perera, Upul Tharanga, Lahiru Thirimanne.