London, May 25 (IANS) Sri Lanka’s coach Stuart Law has described their forthcoming Test series against England as the ‘toughest deal on the planet’.
The former Australian admits that England are the top Test team in the world following two years of consistent results.
‘I have said openly, in the last 18 months England have been the best team in world cricket,’ Law was quoted as saying in The Telegraph.
‘They have beaten teams in their backyard, they’ve beaten teams away from home. They are well drilled and leave nothing to chance. We are preparing for them to be the toughest deal on the planet at this stage,’ said Law, who hopes to be appointed Sri Lanka’s permanent head coach after this tour.
‘We are not underestimating one facet of their game. People say certain areas of their batting line-up can be exposed, but we are not seeing it that way. We are just trying to plan for each batsman. We need to play good consistent cricket for five days, and if we can sniff a result we need to put a foot on the throat.’
The first Test begins at Cardiff Thursday.
Sri Lanka have started encouragingly with wins against Middlesex and the England Lions but suffered a blow when pace bowler Nuwan Pradeep was ruled out of the tour.
Sri Lanka are in a state of flux with a new captain in Tillakaratne Dilshan. The retirements of Lasith Malinga and Muttiah Muralitharan add to the different look of this squad. ‘If you understand what goes on in Sri Lanka cricket behind the scenes, you would be amazed at how well these guys actually play,’ said Law. ‘They have to put up with extra pressures whichever way they come. In the Malinga case, I knew he wasn’t too keen to play this Test series. He’s been playing IPL and has a degenerative knee problem and I was talking to the surgeon who looked after him a couple of years ago who was also treating Murali,’ Law said.
‘He said he was lucky to be walking around, let alone bowling. It’s a shame he’s not here and a shame Murali is not here. But it’s a great opportunity for some young gun to come in and have a great career for Sri Lanka.’
Extra burden on bowlers without Murali, says Dilshan
CARDIFF, May 25 (Reuters) - World record wicket taker Muttiah Muralitharan’s retirement from test cricket last year means Sri Lanka must select two bowlers, instead of one, to make up for his absence, captain Tillakaaratne Dilshan said.
“We have to play six batsmen and five bowlers (instead of four) now as Murali normally bowled 40 overs every day,” Dilshan told reporters on Wednesday.
“Now we don’t have that type of bowler, so we need to have five bowlers in our team.”
Off-spinner Muralitharan claimed 800 test wickets in a 133-match career that began in 1992 and ended last July, helping take Sri Lanka from the bottom-ranked test team to one of the most competitive.
His attacking threat has been sorely missed with Sri Lanka having failed to win any of their five tests since he quit.
“We can’t find another Murali in Sri Lanka, he was a special guy for international cricket,” added Dilshan.
“But we have two young off-spinners in (Ajantha) Mendis and Suraj (Randiv), so if we can get the maximum out of them it might be good for our future.”
The fact neither Mendis or Randiv have been included in Sri Lanka’s 12-man squad for the first test against England at Cardiff starting on Thursday demonstrates the lack of faith that is currently invested in them. Left-arm spinner Rangana Herath is the only slow bowler in the squad.
Mendis, 26, made an immediate impact in international one-day cricket but none of his 15 tests have been played outside of Asia.
Sri Lanka have won two of their 10 test matches in England - at The Oval in 1998 and Trent Bridge in 2006 - and both wins were only possible due to the fizzing ball Muralitharan bowled.
He claimed 16 wickets at The Oval, including second innings analysis of nine for 65 from 54.2 overs, while his eight second innings wickets at Trent Bridge bowled Sri Lanka to a series-levelling win.
When England captain Andrew Strauss was asked to judge the challenge Sri Lanka faced without the world record holder he said: “that’s not our problem” and talked up the current team.
When pushed, though, Strauss could not deny the obvious difference in quality between a Sri Lanka bowling attack containing Murali and one that does not.
“I only faced him in three test matches but it was one of the great challenges of my career,” he said.
“We all know what he achieved in the game and those boots are big boots to fill. But a lot of the time they are filled if not by one person then by a number of different people chipping in.
“One thing about the Sri Lankans, they are always competitive and they are good, street-smart cricketers. They will be very hard to overcome.”