SL are great fighters: Ford
Colombo, July 30: Trailing India 1-2 in the five-match ODI series, Sri Lanka need to win the fourth encounter to keep their hopes in the competition alive. The home team have lost senior batsman and wicketkeeper Kumar Sangakkara and key bowler Nuwan Kulasekara to injuries so far. Speaking to the media ahead of the fourth match, coach Graham Ford discussed his team’s composition and the key task of managing overworked players.
Excerpts from the press conference:
On missing Kumar Sangakkara and Nuwan Kulasekara
It is a tough ask. We have to deal with it the hard way and come back from 2-1 down. As you say, two important players are not available, but it’s an opportunity for others to step up to the plate. It’s an opportunity for us to find out more about others. As I have said many a time, one thing that I have known about the Sri Lankan team is that they are great fighters. Very often when times are tough, that’s when they produce their best performances. [They’ll be ready to] turn it around come tomorrow afternoon.
On getting Prasanna Jayawardene in to keep wicket
Obviously that was a consideration and Prasanna creates a lot of pressure in all forms of the game with his wicketkeeping skills. But we’re also looking into the future and Dinesh [Chandimal] becomes a candidate for us to do the job and it’s an opportunity for us to see how he goes with that duty behind the stumps.
On missing Sangakkara, the batsman
I think we all know. If you look at his statistics, they’re absolutely brilliant. To take a player of his calibre out of the team is a huge blow and it’s tough for the team. The other guys have to fight back much harder and hopefully make up for the difference. It’s a team game and it’s not about one individual. We have lost a great individual, unfortunately. We have another gang of guys up for the challenge.
On whether Lahiru Thirimanne or Chamara Kapugedera would get a call up into the team
We haven’t taken a final call on that, but Thirimanne has had a good run in recent times. He has a great temperament for this type of game and chances are that he will come in.
On whether Thirimanne would bat at No. 3
We’ve discussed that, but we don’t want to reveal that at this stage.
On resting some of the bowlers
We find ourselves in a situation very different from the Indian team. They are really getting themselves back in. Some [of our] players have had a very busy time and fatigue management for some of our players has become high priority. We have to handle players slightly differently. Keeping them nice and fresh is very important.
On losing the third game as well as their best batsman, Sangakkara
I am not too sure whether we were in control of that game. They needed seven-and-a-half runs an over in the last ten, which these days is a possibility. Perhaps if we had managed to break the partnership or taken [Suresh Raina’s] catch, we could have had more control. But we knew it was going to be a tight finish and a tough challenge to close out the game from there. Psychologically it was a blow and a disappointment to lose. Also, as you mention, missing a senior player makes a difference. But as I have said earlier, the Sri Lankan team shows great character and puts in an effort to overcome the loss of a great player. We are up for the challenge. It’s a new game tomorrow. You can’t do anything about the loss or the injury, but we will be up for the challenge.
On predicting a defendable target
To call that at this stage is impossible. We have to weigh up things tomorrow and assess things. Cricket is a funny game and conditions make such difference. We have already seen games [turning out] totally different. We have seen games where totals of 300-plus have been scored and then the opposition gets bowled for 130.
On changes in the pitch at the Premadasa Stadium
I am not the guy to comment on the pitch, not having been involved that long. But from what I gather, it has changed in its nature. It used to be [a track where you] bat first and get a huge score and go from there, but in recent times the side batting second has often won. There’s a bit of change.
On whether there were any additions to the squad
We haven’t had any additions to the squad. We had a 15-member squad and we had two specialist batsmen not playing the last game. We felt that we have enough options in terms of batting, so we haven’t had any replacements.
On the dew being a factor
In the last game it was a very hot day and it was a pretty still day without any breeze or wind. Dew came in earlier than it was expected, but it wasn’t destructive to the bowling side. It did affect the grip of the spin bowlers – they found it hard while the seamers found it hard to control [the swing] – but that’s something we have to have a look at. I don’t think it had a huge impact on the result
On the Indian batting line-up
It was a very good outfit. I wished they batted more often like they did in the second game. But it’s a fantastic batting line-up and every country has huge respect for their ability. We had a few plans, but when you play against such high quality [opposition], sometimes the plans don’t work. Yes, we have to rethink some of the plans, but the important thing is executing those plans well.
On managing the players
It is important and we are in discussions to try to put something in place. It’s an advantage to have them playing and having their T20 skills going well, but at the same time we do need to make sure that they come out of the Premier League very fresh and ready for the T20 World Cup.
I think for most of the players it’s a good opportunity to sharpen their skills. The more cricket they [play], the better they get. But one or two have had really busy times and played so much cricket; because they are such good players, they have been the main performers and we have to look at their workloads. But we like them to play a part in the tournament.
On Nuwan Kulasekara
We have had a lot of frontline seamers injured. He is the sixth seamer to go out injured. Kulasekara is a hugely skillful one-day bowler. He is an outstanding one-day bowler. To lose him is a big blow, but it’s an opportunity for someone else to do what they can do. With six bowlers out it is pretty tough at the moment. He has been a star for Sri Lankan cricket for a long time, particularly the one-day format of the game. He has created some problems for the Indian batsmen in recent times, particularly in Australia. I guess they are pretty glad to see that he is not involved.
On how the bowlers are used
It’s an ongoing debate, isn’t it? Some new theories have come in regularly. At one stage it was about resting up your bowlers as much as possible and only allowing them to bowl so many balls in the nets. Then it sort of changed to get them to bowl as much as possible so that the bodies are more conditioned to the kind of workload they are going to get. I think at the end of the day every case is unique. It has to be done with the individual’s body and strength. The back-up staff is getting more and more scientific in getting screen tests, physical conditioning and hopefully identifying the areas that will help to prevent injuries. It seems a part of the business of fast bowling; if you are giving 100 percent and bowling full intensity [on] a regular basis, there is obvious chance of physical injury. Across the world it seems to be happening. Looking at our busy schedule you can say it has caused some of the problems, but some of the problems are due to freak accidents.