Sri Lankan cricketers had an optional training session on the eve of their must-win World Cup fixture against South Africa.
It, however, is not an unusual scene in Sri Lankan cricket. “That’s how I have run the show in the last 18 months,” says head coach Chandika Hathurusingha.
He leaves it to the players to decide whether they want to train ahead of a match or not. “If you see, in the last three days we had flat- out training sessions. It is important that the players remain fresh ahead of the game,” Hathurusingha says.
The coach was impressed with the wicket. “It looks a good wicket. We can have a game right away,” he says, quickly adding: “Seems like there’s lot of runs out there.”
This may be the first game of the tournament at this venue, but it did host a high-scoring fixture between Australia and England a year ago.
England had chased down 311 in just 45 overs.
Ahead of the fixture, there is a bit of uncertainty over the availability of Nuwan Pradeep, who is down with fever. “We will get to know Nuwan’s condition this evening. He is meeting a doctor today. We will know in a short while,” Hathurusingha says.
“We had good preparation as there were no rain interruptions. We had given the boys two days of rest before that. So we are well prepared.”
Until last week, things looked gloomy for Sri Lanka with a series of defeats, but riding on Lasith Malinga’s four-for and Angelo Mathews’ unbeaten 85, the team stunned England to bring its campaign back on track.
“That’s the good thing about a great team. The senior players or the big players turn up for the occasion. That has boosted our confidence. Their efforts are crucial for us winning. If you take Kane Williamson and Joe Root they rise to the occasion when they need. Oppositions want them dismissed early or not to give them wickets,” he says.
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“When we plan, we plan a lot against opposition’s big match players. That goes a long way. For us, Malinga gave us wickets with the new ball and then struck again in the middle overs. Angelo batted so well against England and it helps to boost the confidence of other players too,” says the coach.
It’s a dead rubber for South Africa, which is already out of the semifinals race, but Hathurusingha is cautious. “When you have no pressure of qualifying, they can come and play without any pressure, fearless cricket and that can get them going.”
With chances of moving to the knockouts still bright, the Lankan coach will be keen to cross the line.
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