All the pre-tournament talk finishes on Saturday with the First ODI in Hambantota. Being a weekend it should be a sell-out crowd and hopefully it will also be an exciting contest. We are certainly itching to start, looking forward to renewing our friendly, but fiercely competitive rivalry with India.
Hambantota is Sri Lanka’s newest international venue and is located in the deep south. It will be India’s first visit, but they won’t be too handicapped by their lack of familiarity with conditions as we have still only played three ODI games here. It’s a great facility and has a huge playing area – one of the biggest in the world, in fact. That means you have to work hard with your running between the wickets and also means that there is lots of work to do for the fielders.
In terms of the pitch and the expected conditions, it’s too early to make general comments regarding Hambantota. Thus far, teams have generally preferred to bat first here, but the flood lights are good and it is also a chasing wicket. More than worrying about the conditions, the key for us is that we want to start strongly. India are fresh from a long break and that could be both an advantage and disadvantage. We hope to turn it to our advantage by hitting them hard up front.
Our team has developed quite a bit in the past few months and we now have some really quality all-rounders at our disposable. Indian fans will be familiar with Angelo Mathews and Thisara Perera, but Jeevan Mendis is also now giving us useful spin options as our spin bowling all-rounder.
It will also be great to welcome back Lasith after the Pakistan Test series. He opted out of a stint with Middlesex to make sure he was in peak condition for this series. He’s rested well, cleared up a few niggles and appears to be really fresh and raring to go.
With our all-rounders, we have more options now in terms of our top order. We bat very deep and that means we can afford to be flexible with the order. Upul (Tharanga) might resume as Dilshan’s opening partner or I might move up to the top like during the CB Series.
As I’ve said before, I think this has all the makings of a classic series. Both teams have struggled for consistency since the World Cup, but both have also been quietly developing and improving as new players are introduced and team strategies amended.
This will be a great opportunity to see where we both stand.