Our main objective is to get to the semifinals: Mathews

We’ve got to try and adapt to the situations and the conditions as soon as possible, says the Sri Lankan skipper.

Angelo Mathews,talks to the media during an ICC Champions Trophy press conference.

What kind of shape and form is your side in at the moment?  

Well, we had some good preparation in the past couple of months I would say, and most of the boys were in India, and the boys were in Sri Lanka, they had some good preparation through playing some practice games, as well. We are all professionals, and there has been a little bit of doubt; people kept saying that the boys are in India and they haven’t had good preparation, but I want to write it off because we are professionals and we need to sort of get prepared for this kind of tournament because it’s a huge event for everyone, personally and as a team. So I think we’ve done our preparation as a team and individually.

Are you worried about the group you’re in? It’s a very tough group with Australia and England. 
Not really. Yeah, definitely Australia and New Zealand they’re quite used to the conditions, especially in England, and with the two new balls, it’s going to be tough. But I think our boys are up for the challenge, and if we want to go far in the tournament, I think we’ve got to beat all the teams that come our way. I think at this point our main objective is to try to get to the semifinals, but I think that’s too far ahead. We need to try to take one game at a time and try and win those.

How difficult are these very unpredictable English conditions going to be, it’s always a problem for a side arriving from overseas to come here and play in these conditions? 
Definitely. We’ve been playing in low slow conditions and very hot and humid conditions in the past couple months. I think trying to adjust to the conditions is going to be the main challenge. Yeah, especially early summer is always going to be like this, wet, and it’s going to swing and seam.

So I think that’s our main challenges as batters especially, and I think the bowlers have got the firepower. We haven’t got the pace, but we know how to go in these conditions, and I think in one group guys like Lasith Malinga, Thisara Perera, have got their firepower. I think we’ve got a good couple of spinners, as well, and yeah, I think batting, if we can get it right, I think we can go a long way.

As you say, you have the experience and bowlers have been here before and done it before, so you’re counting on the likes of Malinga and so on to do it for you this time? 
Definitely, guys like Malinga, Kulasekara, they’ve been our strike bowlers the past couple of years or rather three, four years.  So we bank on them, and also, we’re not banking on any individual.  We’ve got the 15 players we can walk into the team any given day.  So I think if they can try and get the basics right we can go a long way.

You’ve had a great reputation of winning one day tournaments in the past, World Cups, 20/20. Do you back yourself here? Definitely. If you do the basics right, as I said before, if you’ve done pretty well in the past World Cups, in the Twenty20s, World Cups, as well, so I think we’ve got to a stage where we’ve done pretty well and lasted from there. So I think if we can get this right this time, it would be awesome.

Your past track record as a team suggests that you’ve earned the respect of the highest level of world cricket, so any team that would underestimate Sri Lanka, that would be an unwise move?
Well, yes. We’ve been a pretty good outfit in the as I say, I would say the past few years, but we’ve been pretty consistent in the past so many years. As I said before, we have played so many finals and semifinals and lost it from there. But as for now, our main objective is to try to get to the semifinals. But yeah, most teams won’t be complacent with us, but I think that that’s a platform because we need to raise the bar a bit.

A lot of cricket lovers here in the Midlands are disappointed you won’t be playing a competitive match here at Edgbaston.  Definitely, we’ve got three practice games and we’ve got Pakistan, India and West Indies, and I think that is going to be a good preparation for us as long as the weather stays away. But I think that we are planning to get the maximum out of the three practice games.

Have you been down to Edgbaston to have a look at the revamped facilities?
No, this is my first time we’re in Birmingham, so I’m really looking forward to it.

Have many of the other members of your squad have experience of playing here?
Definitely. As far as I know Kumar Sangakkara played for Warwickshire here and he’s done pretty well. So we’ve got the experience in our team and the youngsters, so I think the balance is right in our team because experienced guys play the major role with the youngsters, especially in these conditions and in this type of a tournament. So I think the experience is really vital for our team.

Has Sangakkara mentioned to you the conditions that you will expect down here at Edgbaston? 
Definitely. As I said before, we’ve got to try and adapt to the situations and the conditions as soon as possible because if we are to perform at this level in the Champions Trophy, we need to be, we can’t put our guards down, so we need to try and make the most out of the nine, ten days that we have prior to our first game.

Are you as excited by the ICC Champions Trophy as other cricket fanatics are across the country? Yeah, definitely. In a tournament like this, people come in large numbers to watch the game, and the best eight teams compete. So I think all teams are even, and hopefully we can give some excitement to the fans.

As you pointed out, some of your senior players are not performing that well, so would you hesitate before dropping them if needed?
Well, firstly I never pointed out that I have any concerns about their performances, and I think they’ve been world class for us.  It’s not even a concern when it comes to a tournament like this because they’ve been here, they’ve done it, and I have the confidence in them.  I’m really proud to have these guys in my team because I can get a lot of information and help.  So I’m really happy to have them in the team.

You’ve got to the finals of the last two cricket World Cups and the last two World T20s, so a very good record in international tournaments as has been mentioned.  How motivated are you by the Champions Trophy with this tournament coming up obviously involving the eight best sides in the world? 
Definitely, as I said before, we’ve done pretty well here on the big stage, and it’s just that I can’t really point out what went wrong in the finals and semifinals, but we are hoping to better the performances which we have done in the past.  But I think now as a team we just want to make the maximum out of the first 10 days and take one game at a time.

(Courtesy: International Cricket Council)