Windies seek maiden Test win in Sri Lanka
COLOMBO — Sri Lanka’s skipper said he hoped his team would use the upcoming series with the West Indies to climb up Test rankings after the retirement of star spinner Muttiah Muralitharan.
“We don’t have Murali for the first time in a full series since his retirement,” captain Kumar Sangakkara said in a blog post on Saturday, referring to Muralitharan, who quit in July with a world record 800 Test wickets.
“But we have a varied bowling attack and each bowler needs to shoulder some of the responsibility for replacing the great man,” he said ahead of the three-Test series starting in Galle on Monday.
Sri Lanka, currently ranked third behind India and South Africa in the International Cricket Council Test rankings, are hoping to rise another notch with a series win against the West Indies.
“We need to refocus because this tour is an important stepping stone. We want to win the Test series and we want to improve our value as a Test side,” the skipper said.
The West Indies tour also includes five one-dayers that will be played across Sri Lanka’s three World Cup venues in Colombo (Khettarama), the central hillside town of Pallekele (in Kandy) and Hambantota in the deep south.
The Kandy and Hambantota venues are brand new 25,000-seater stadiums that will be used for preparation ahead of the next February’s World Cup that will be played across India, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka.
With the Sri Lankan venues nearing completion, Sangakkara hoped the team would not lose the home advantage ahead of their World Cup preparations.
“We also - hopefully under lights - have a chance to play at both Hambantota and Khettarama. This will really help us to get a feel for the new grounds that will feature in our World Cup programme,” he said.
Meanwhile the West Indies will be keen to put in a solid all-round performance as they seek their maiden Test victory in Sri Lanka in the three-match series starting in Galle on Monday.
The visitors, who are without experienced batsman Ramnaresh Sarwan, have lost five Tests and drawn once on Sri Lankan soil, and will find it tough to change the script under new skipper Darren Sammy and Australian-born vice-captain Brendan Nash.
All-rounder Sammy, who replaced Chris Gayle, has been given the task of building the team for the future after being named captain last month.
Gayle and vice-captain Dwayne Bravo were replaced after they turned down central contracts offered by the cricket board.
But the pair have been named in the squad and are expected to play key roles in their team’s campaign along with veteran batsman Shivnarine Chanderpaul.
Sammy, who has played only eight Tests since making his debut in 2007, is confident of a good performance from his team.
“We want to win, to play well and bring the passion and pride back to the West Indies,” he said ahead of the series.
“We are a little bit inexperienced, but we have put in a good preparation work ahead of our coming here.
“I am very confident of all the players I have here, likewise all the players are confident of giving off their best for the West Indies.”
The West Indies bowlers face a stiff task to keep pressure on Sri Lanka’s formidable batting as skipper Kumar Sangakkara, Mahela Jayawardene, Thilan Samaraweera and Tillakaratne Dilshan are capable of dominating any attack.
The hosts also have an impressive record in Galle, having won nine of their 16 Tests at this venue. They have lost three matches and drawn four.