2011 WC final on our minds: Mathews
Sri Lanka have earned their place in the semi-final of the Champions Trophy 2013 on the back of tough victories in the league phase. The Angelo Mathews-led side comprising former captains – Mahela Jayawardene and Kumar Sangakkara – is eager to take the field on June 20 against India and hope to book a place in the final.
India, on the other hand, have put up an impressive performance in the tournament so far and their young batting line-up has emerged as one of the best in the tournament. Speaking about tackling the formidable batting line-up and his advise to his bowlers, Mathews said, “I haven't told them anything so far. Yes, we need to make our plans and strategies right for tomorrow, but I am sure the bowlers are confident enough to face their batting line-up. But I think India is a very strong team to beat, and the past record has not been very good for us. But hopefully we can turn things around tomorrow.”
Asked if they have any particular strategy to stop the in-form Shikhar Dhawan, he said “We're not looking at any individual at the moment because all seven batters are very good. They have a good strong batting lineup. We are not looking at any particular player but we are making plans for the whole batting lineup.
“They are a good balanced team and we need to play positive cricket. Apparently it's going to rain quite a bit. But I know it's not in our control. We need to try and control the things that we can control – batting, bowling and fielding. We will try and do our best and win.”
Speaking about his team’s confidence on the eve of the all-important game, Mathews said, “Especially after the New Zealand game we had to do it the hard way and we had to beat England in English conditions. The Australians had played really well in the past couple of months. The boys responded brilliantly. We had to win the two games to get into the semi-finals and the boys responded brilliantly.
“We are a fighting team. All three games went down to the wire and we had to fight really hard to win. The team confidence is very high. We know that we are a fighting team, and we fight to the last moment. Hopefully we can once again have a good performance at The Oval.”
Asked if the semi-final would be a payback time after losing to India in the ICC World Cup 2011 he said, “There's no room for revenge in sport, but yes, if we can beat the Indians, I think it'll be a great achievement for the whole team because, you know, there are thoughts about the World Cup final, and the recent history against them is not very good for Sri Lanka. But on our day we can beat any team. I'm sure the boys are up for it and are geared up to take on India.”
While talking about his own team’s line-up and the vital role that veterans Kumar Sangakkara and Mahela Jayawardene play, he said, “Yes, I think we have seven really good batters who can score a hundred on any day, and I think we have to fight really hard in the last three games, Kumar Sangakkara and Mahela Jayawardene have been brilliant and also (Tillakaratne) Dilshan and (Lahiru) Thirimanne at the front and they were brilliant. Their presence was actually crucial in the last game, so hopefully the batting will click once again.”
“Sangakkara and Mahela are the backbone of the batting lineup and Dilshan once again is very senior player. Also we've got a few youngsters in Dinesh Chandimal, Thirimanne who can take the bowling apart. But we are not depending on certain people in the team because all seven are good batters. (...) but whoever gets set on that day has to continue for a long spell and try and get the team into a good total.”
Speaking about their batting strategy, Mathews said, “It depends on the situation and the conditions. We try to keep our options open, and we try to be flexible with our batting order.”
Speaking about the wicket he said, “I haven't had a look at the wicket yet, but these conditions can be swinging, and there can be a built of lateral movement. If there's any, I think, in the first 10, 15 overs we need to be cautious a little more, but if there aren't then we need to try to attack in the first 10, 15 overs. But we haven't planned our strategies out. We'll have a look at the wicket and try and plan it out.”
While talking about Lasith Malinga who hasn’t had much success against India and the familiarity of playing against the neighbours often, Mathews said, “Yes, we play against India a lot. Whoever is playing against anyone all the time gets used to them. But I'm sure, Lasith, he's a very good bowler and he's an experienced bowler to come into those situations. Yes, Indians might have played Lasith quite a lot, but I'm sure he's a very experienced bowler and he has a few different ideas for tomorrow.
“Malinga takes every game seriously. It's just that he wants to do a little bit more for tomorrow. Yeah, we are quite flexible with the bowlers. Whoever wants to have a bowl, they are welcome to have. If not, if they want to rest, they're welcome to rest. We are not pushing anyone at this time, so whoever wants to do their bit can come and do it.”