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Sports


ICC Champions Trophy - 2006
Cricketers up their guard

Sri Lanka skipper Mahela Jayawardene warns the lack of ODI cricket has made the team bank heavily on the initial games to get back into the groove


By Sa’adi Thawfeeq

Sri Lanka could not have asked for a better scenario to be in when they begin their quest for the ICC Champions trophy which begins in India next week.
Since their last one-day international against India was washed out by rain on August 20, they have had no international engagements till their Champions trophy qualifying round match against Bangladesh on October 7.
Although the players are coming out of a ‘welcome break’ from cricket, skipper Mahela Jayawardene described that the first few games they play would be tough for them to get back into the groove.
“The three qualifying games are very important from Sri Lanka’s point. It gives us an opportunity to get back after a break. They are good build-up games and we can’t take any of them lightly,” said Jayawardene. “Winning them and playing proper cricket is going to give us a lot of confidence going forward into the tournament. There are a couple of warm up games also for us as well. It will be the ideal preparation for us to get back into things.”
“The situation that we are in is because we haven’t played that much of one-day cricket for about four weeks. To qualify was an issue for us. I don’t know why we had to qualify but now it has become a good thing for us. We have a couple of extra games so that we can get into the groove,” stated Jayawardene.
Bangladesh, Zimbabwe and West Indies will be Sri Lanka’s opponents in the qualifying round.
“Our confidence is high having to play these teams but we cannot be complacent and take anything for granted. We lost to Bangladesh once because we didn’t play very good cricket on that particular day. If we don’t focus ourselves and play good cricket there is a good chance of them beating us,” cautioned Jayawardene.
“The most important thing is we have to get that hunger back for winning from any situation that we find ourselves in. That has been the difference in the last couple of months. Our guys were very much hungry to win matches and to perform.”
“When you are not playing cricket consistently that feeling goes off. It’s a good preparation for us to get back into and get those good values that you always talk about at team meetings. The guys are very keen to start playing cricket again. It will be a much easier task for us,” he said.
Jayawardene said the break helped a lot especially Marvan Atapattu, giving him more time to recover from a back operation. “Some of the guys also needed a rest and some of them had a few injury problems, but all are fit now.”
“In the past four weeks Marvan has made a lot of progress. We could see physically he is much fitter, agility wise as well. He has practically done every fielding drill what the other guys have been doing and has shown no ill-effects from his back injury. It is just that he needs match practice. The qualifying games plus the practice matches that we are going to play will give him that opportunity,” said Jayawardene.
The captain explained that during the break emphasis was laid a lot on fitness because the next six months was going to be pretty hectic for the team.
“We only had about five days off basically. After the last tournament we played, we were given individual programs to work on practically every day in the gym. The net sessions started a week later. It has been pretty gradual but very strenuous training for us,” said Jayawardene.
“To get back into the form we were displaying before the break is a bit tough. At practices we emphasized a lot on match scenarios and gave guys situations so that they could handle them and bat accordingly.
The bowlers were given targets and situations as well,” he said.
Sri Lanka will be aiming to win all their qualifying matches and finish on top so that they go into the tournament proper as Qualifier one and into Group ‘A’ where they will play Pakistan, New Zealand and South Africa.
“You don’t want to lose a game and try and get into a different group whereas this is a scenario that is being set for us. We have to win practically every game we play. That’s a good attitude to have,” said Jayawardene.
“Winning the Champions trophy will be brilliant. It’s another tournament for us and competing with all the other countries would be great. This is actually a very good preparation for all the countries to see where they stand with the rest of the teams, and the combinations that you want to take to West Indies for the World Cup,” he said.