The solemn but upbeat Wednesday evening mood echoed in Colombo’s packed Movenpick Hotel auditorium echoed the drilled up Sri Lankan camp’s outlook to the upcoming June 1st 2017 Champions Trophy as expectancy ran high to bringing home the elusive trophy. Reminiscent of a King Arthur’s roundtable with Skipper Angelo Mathews and his deputy Upul Tharanga flanked by Sri Lanka Cricket’s top brass and expert coaching staff, the all seriousness of the championship title bid figured hugely in a pros and cons weighing scenario. The wholly big question that hovered around in different forms as the think tanks strutted about in a down to earth reasoning was how well Sri Lanka was equipped to deliver the all-round knockout blow that would bring the cup in a highly charged up intensity of top flight opposition. Of course, the local media hyped up the occasion that assumed a dress rehearsal pow vow of sorts as to how Sri Lanka was going to get past the likes of the giant sized from reigning champions India to Australia, England, South Africa, New Zealand, Pakistan and Bangladesh. As the Sri Lankan skipper reasoned every side was steely stuff that would require a realistically all-round effort for Sri Lanka to prevail.
The initial round saw SLC President, Thilanga Sumathipala dwell at length on the efforts the administration had taken to drive the 15-member squad in to match winning verve. The entire training gamut had been covered meticulously from coaching expertise that had seen former South African champion fast bowler Allan Donald roped as a Special Consultant, to focusing on a specific acclimatizing ritual of English playing conditions that had run in to weeks starting from Diyatalawa to Pallekelle in Kandy. The cricket meticulous SLC president, who is known for his characteristic go getting enthusiasm that borders on nothing but the best, emphasised that effectively every possible endeavour had been taken by SLC to equip the players to the optimum, Particularly, the last six days of training at Pallekelle’s Provincial Centre of Excellence had seen the preparatory drive culminate in a highly satisfactory thoroughness; a fact also echoed by skipper Mathews. Sumathipala went a step further in also announcing that an additional player facility had been wrung in by a 900 pounds insurance cover for each player in taking in to account every detail of ensuring the best for the players. Another aspect seen to had been arranging for the two standby players Dilruwan Perera and Dhanushka Gunatillake to also travel to England and be in training in the event of an exigency.
There was Angelo Mathews airing the belief that all details had been gone in to in preparing for instant cricket’s extravaganza that is considered as huge a contest as a world cup. While he was happy to be back fit from injury, he was mindful that it was a more or less young blend of players at his disposal who had been put through the mill to optimizing their performance levels. He believed his charges had the commitment and the spark to go the distance where every side up to Bangladesh would be tough to beat, and it would require keyed up cricket to achieve success.
Head Coach Graham Ford tread a cautious path warning that for all the hard work Sri Lanka had put in to fine tuning, almost all the other sides had been playing consistently well in a result oriented run in the run up to the Champions Trophy. He believed that Sri Lanka could reach the winning post if the mainly young outfit clicked in the batting collectively. In the event that Sri Lanka’s young batsmen put in a collective batting effort that would set up the platform for run making, there were gifted stroke makers to take it down to the wire. It was this fighting spirit in the Sri Lankans that had in fact inspired him to take up his job with Sri Lanka.
Sri Lanka squad:
Angelo Mathews (Capt), Upul Tharanga (V. Capt), Niroshan Dickwella, Kusal Perera, Kusal Mendis, Chamara Kapugedera, Asela Gunaratne, Dinesh Chandimal, Lasith Malinga, Suranga Lakmal, Nuwan Pradeep, Nuwan Kulasekera, Thisara Perera, Lakshan Sandakan, Seekkuge Prasanna.
Standbys: Dilruwan Perera, Dhanushka Gunathilake
By Srian Obeyesekere
-The opinions expressed here are the views of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of Sri Lanka Cricket-