By Champika Fernando
Hosts Sri Lanka is likely to go full strength against lowly ranked Zimbabwe to bolster their limited over rankings, when the bilateral tour begins in a fortnight in Galle.
Sri Lanka is ranked 8th with 93 points, their worst standing in many moons as they have gone through a difficult patch losing all but two in their last ten outings. Sri Lanka is 16 points ahead of the 9th ranked The West Indies which has secured them an automatic selection to the 2019 ICC World Cup.
Hosts England and seven top rank teams before September 2017 earn automatic qualification while the bottom four teams must play qualifying matches to grab the remaining two spots.
“We must keep in mind the rankings,” said Cricket Manager Asanka Gurusinha when asked whether Sri Lanka will look to test their bench strength against the minnows. “We need to give our best shot at improving it.
Coach Graham Ford also rules out any possibility of experiment during the tour.
“We need to understand the physical condition of certain players well and may be look at some opportunities. At the same time, we need a winning team. It’s very important make winning a habit. We are talking about building a team and we need to keep these guys playing together and try and give them as much opportunities as possible,” Ford said at a press conference in Colombo soon after returning from their failed Champions Trophy campaign.
Sri Lanka plays five ODIs and one-off Test against Zimbabwe who is making their first visit to the island since January 2002 where they played three Test matches against the Lankans.
Following their return to the island, the cricketers and the coaching staff are given one week break and will return for training on Friday. The Sunday Times can confirmed that coach Graham Ford had left for South Africa last week and is expected to join the team in time for the training.
“We will probably finalise the team on Monday or Tuesday,” Gurusinha who is also a member of the selection committee said.
The five-match ODI series will be played in Galle and Sooriyawewa. Galle, a popular test venue which last hosted a limited over match in July 6, 2000 when Sri Lanka played South Africa in a tri-series will host the first two ODIs on June 30 and July 2. The remaining three will be played at the Sooriyawewa cricket stadium. Sooriyawewa was abandoned for nearly two years due to high cost and other logistical reasons. Khettarama will host the one-off test in the tour.
Zimbabwe tour schedule
June 30: 1st ODI, Galle
July 2: 2nd ODI, Galle
July 6: 3rd ODI, Hambantota
July 8: 4th ODI, Hambantota
July 10: 5th ODI, Hambantota
July 14-18: Only Test, Colombo (RPS)