|ICC Champions Trophy -
Cricketers up their guard
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
“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.”
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
“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.