By Phil Lutton (Sydney Morning Herald)
As their stoic captain talked about the prospect of a "miracle" at the Gabba ahead of Thursday's first Test, one of Sri Lanka's former players suggested the touring side may not even trust each other on the field as an ICC anti-corruption probe continues in the island nation.
Sri Lankan players were granted a 15-day amnesty to report any new information in confidence to the ICC Anti-Corruption Unit, with that grace period to expire on January 31. Those found to have failed to report any relevant evidence after the amnesty lapses face bans of up to five years.
It all relates to a wider investigation into the state of Sri Lankan cricket, launched in September, that has already seen three former players, including Sanath Jayasuriya and the touring team's former bowling coach Nuwan Soysa, charged under the ICC anti-corruption code.
Such is the perceived state of parts of the Sri Lankan game that Russel Arnold, who played 44 Tests with his last cap in 2004, suggested that the probe would be an immense distraction and players may have lost trust in their teammates and management.
"I would be surprised if none of this is in the back of their mind," Arnold said from the Gabba on Wednesday. "Whether they can trust their teammate, whether they can trust anyone’s instructions or game plans to carry out ... it has to worry them.
"Trust does take a beating. You tend to wonder what the hell is going on."
That is exactly what the ICC intend to find out and already, the game's governing body has reported that the amnesty period has been fruitful in terms of gathering fresh information. Following a meeting in Dubai last month, Sri Lanka's Sports Minister Harin Fernando said the ICC had ranked the country's cricket administration "corrupt from top to bottom".
But while Arnold questioned whether the fabric of the team could hold up as an effective playing unit amid a serious anti-corruption investigation, another former Test player and one-time national coach said the tourists had no choice but to band together against the Australians in Brisbane and Canberra.
Marvan Attaputu, a 90-Test veteran who coached Sri Lanka in 2014-15, said the timing of the anti-corruption probe was difficult for the players but doubted internal trust would be strained at the Gabba.
"They have to trust each other... I think Russel was more talking about how they will feel. They have to trust each other, it's a team sport. The whole group has to be one to get the performance in the middle," said Attapatu, who will be part of the Channel Seven commentary team for the series. "It's going to be important for these guys, having played Two Tests in New Zealand then two here and then straight to South Africa, to be very focused. It's not going to be easy and you don't want any other things creeping in to distract. This is a big enough challenge. You don't need anything in the middle of that."
"You talk about it when you have to talk about it ... at the right time. Get the right people in and try to keep the team aside so they can perform to their optimum.
"It's a time for the management to come into the scene and say what they have to say if they want to get the job done. If they can control that, they should control it outside of the dressing room. They should keep the players aside at this moment in time."
Current Sri Lankan captain Dinesh Chandimal was one of the players who put his name to a petition welcoming the anti-corruption investigation, which was sparked by match-fixing allegations against the current side by former player Pramodaya Wickremesinghe.
Chandimal played the straightest of forward defensive strokes when asked about Arnold's comments on Wednesday, simply saying: "Sorry, I have no comments on that."
He was far more expansive on the hopes and dreams of a nation that has never won a Test in Australia but find themselves emboldened by the victorious Indians and a home side that has more than a touch of vulnerability in its ranks.
"India played some outstanding cricket throughout their series. We watched from New Zealand and we have an idea what we have to do in these conditions," Chandimal said. "It's definitely a challenge for us [here] and if we can take this challenge, we can do a miracle here. That's what we want to do as a team and we keep our fingers crossed."