BY CHAMPIKA FERNANDO
As the Champions Trophy has drawn nearer, the Sri Lanka Team is set to depart to England this morning for two-weeks of preparation ahead of the global event which begins on June 1.
Sri Lanka Coach Graham Ford believes his charges faces a huge challenge in their quest to bring home the silverware.
Ford returned as Sri Lanka Coach in January last year and since then had endured a difficult timeoverseeing a team in transition after a series of high profile retirements.
“We have to be realistic,” Ford said addressing the media in Colombo yesterday on the eve of the team’s departure to England.The team has been through a rigorous and intense training in preparation for the tour at hand and Ford said: ‘It’s now about action’ as they embarked on the tour as underdogs.
“It’s not the time to talk but it’s the time about action. Lots have been said to the effect that we are confident about winning the tournament which is something we can really do. But I think we’ve got to accept that we are going for the tournament as underdogs and sometimes it’s a wonderful place to be,” Ford said.
This year, Sri Lanka lost six out of seven ODIs played, including a 5-0 thrashing at the hands of South Africa and memories of which is likely to haunt them when they take on the star-studded Proteas in their tournament opener on June 3.
However, since their series against Bangladesh at home, Sri Lanka have done enough to prepare themselves for the series.
The Inter-Provincial Tournament provided a perfect platform for the selectors to make the right choice and then put them through intense training in Colombo and in Kandy.
“We have been able to identify areas that we’ve really need to improve. Now the lads are very determined to improve those areas and if we can get those weak areas right, we will become extremely competitive,” Ford added.
Sri Lanka are in Group ‘B’ and will also meet India and Pakistan in the qualifying round to earn a semifinal spot which seems extremely difficult given its current standings.
“Some of the teams playing against us had pretty good times. Danger for them is they can drop their guard a little bit and not focus on areas that they really want to work on,” he added.
Fielding has been one of the key weak areas of the National Team in recent months but Ford hopes to lay it to rest come June as the team has put in lot of efforts in fielding drills.
“We have done a lot of hard work in our fielding so hopefully that’s going to stand up well,” he said. Ford also commented on their batting depths and the exceptional talents of Lasith Malinga and Nuwan Kulasekera at the death with the ball.
“I think in one-day cricket we had some exceptional batsmen and if the batting pitches are good we can really put the bowling attack under pressure. Perhaps with some of the younger players we are still learning to construct the innings and to make sure that we are in a position to put a bowling attack under a lot of pressure. But we do construct innings as well,” he said.
“We have some of the best ball hitters in world cricket who could really take down a bowling attack. If we can get all these in place. I think we can chase down really big scores. Bowling vice if we can get old guards in Malinga and Kulasekera firing with their skills at the end of the innings, we will be in a really good position.
Skipper Angelo Mathews said that his charges are geared up for the challenge despite recent setbacks.
“We don’t want to look too far ahead at this moment. We will take it one at a time,” Mathews said. “We are prepared because we don’t have time for hiccups and come back, specially in tournaments like this. So, everyone got their hands on and we will definitely improve day by day,” said Mathews who will be leading the side for the first time since January this year.
Mathews who suffered a hamstring injury in South Africa missed both Australia and Bangladesh series due to injurybefore returning to action at the Indian Premier League (IPL).
Meanwhile, SLC President Thilanga Sumathipala said that the SLC has offered 900,000 pounds insurance cover for the National Team - the first of its kind.
ICC Champions Trophy 2017 Press Conference Picture Gallery