Expect 200 per cent support; All in the team know our fans expect us to win – ODI Skipper Upul Tharanga

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Saying that the past performance in the Test series should be put in to the past, Sri Lanka ODI Captain, Upul Tharanga said that the 5-match ODI series against India was a ‘good time for us to show the whole world our capabilities.’ “Let’s face the new challenge with confidence. We have been bugged by injuries to players. But I believe we’ve a good squad, and as a team it is a good time to show the world our capabilities. Mainly all in the team know that our local cricket fans expect us to win”, the new ODI skipper expressed at a Sri Lanka Cricket (SLC)  media briefing on Wednesday ahead of the series commencing in Dambulla on Sunday.

Tharanga is also the T20 captain. The down South prodigy from Balapitiya, who is Sri Lanka’s most experienced ODI campaigner showcased by 207 matches, 196 innings and  6,212 runs, 14 centuries and 34 half centuries with a highest of 174 not out,  urged, “I trust the players will give their 200 per cent support as much as request the local media and all Sri Lankans to back us as a team.”

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The captain found the full endorsement of SLC President, Thilanga Sumathipala who said, ”Upul’s got the necessary leadership qualities. He is a quiet, confident and capable player. We have beaten Australia in Australia in the last T20 series under his leadership as well as South Africa in South Africa that gives us all the confidence to believe in Upul’s leadership qualities. All the senior players have also pledged their fullest support to Upul as Sri Lanka starts its campaign from Dambulla to win the series against India.” He reminded the media that above all one must not forget that ‘we beat India in the Champions Trophy in England not  so long ago’.  Stressing that Tharanga had been entrusted with a good squad, the SLC President said that it was expected of Head Coach, Nic Pothas to take the necessary steps ‘to take us to victory. We are of the view that he has enough power to go and execute it. Sri Lanka is as strong as any team in the world.”

Emphasising that what happened in the middle was beyond the SLC administration and that it was solely a part the players had to perfect, Sumathipala stressed that all administrative needs of the players had been adequately met, and that the players had to just focus out there in the middle.. Head Coach, Nic Pothas said he was expectant of turning a watershed in the ODIs and T20. “The test series was very disappointing. We played to full strength, But there were injury setbacks,” he said.

Pothas, however, did stir the pulse of all in a great expectations strong message to all cricket loving Sri Lankans that the name of the game was patience as Sri Lanka ventures in to a new era when the talking of the walk should be done in two years time. “I believe patience is important. Lets talk in two years time, and I am sure we will have a very positive outcome,” Pothas reasoned.

Chairman of Selectors, Sanath Jayasuriya believed that in the ODI contest ‘we have a more experienced side. I believe we can change broken expectations as a former Sri Lanka captain. We have brought Thisara Perera to plug the middle order with an experienced player, and Thisara is a fast bowling  all-rounder to supplement the fast bowling department.”

As to player injuries, Jayasuriya pointed out that there were 25 player injury handicaps the selectors had to contend with. “We discuss with the coaches and select players. I like if we can give 15 players and watch them perform to expectations. Then no issues.”

Sri Lanka ODI squad:

Upul Tharanga (captain), Angelo Mathews, Niroshan Dickwella, Dhanushka Gunathilaka, Kusal Mendis,

Chamara Kapugedera, Milinda Siriwardana, Malinda Pushpakumara, Akila Dhananjaya, Lakshan Sandakan,

Thisara Perera, Wanindu Hasaranga, Lasith Malinga, Dushmantha Chameera, Vishwa Fernando.

 By Srian Obeyesekere