'Best team Sri Lanka have sent' - Thirimanne
Sri Lanka's makeshift Twenty20 tournament was confirmed only two days before it began and was followed by the board's public spat with Kumar Sangakkara, but Kandurata Maroons captain Lahiru Thirimanne believes Sri Lanka now sends the strongest ever side to represent the country at the Champions League.
Four members of Sri Lanka's frontline Twenty20 side, which has remained atop the world rankings for almost a year, will also play for Kandurata in India. In addition to Thirimanne and Sangakkara, Ajantha Mendis and Nuwan Kulasekara are in the squad, along with Rangana Herath, who is not always in the Twenty20 XI, but has bowled crucial spells for Sri Lanka in the shortest format.
Kandurata's supporting cast includes sometime Sri Lanka players and domestic stalwarts Thilina Kandamby and Kaushal Lokuarachchi, as well as earmarked youngsters like allrounder Shehan Jayasuriya and fast bowler Vimukthi Perara.
"I think this is the best team Sri Lanka have sent," Thirimanne said. "We've got some very experienced players - the likes of Sangakkara, Kulasekara, Upul Tharanga and Ajantha Mendis. Whether you look at our bowling or batting, we have a lot of ability and the side is well balanced. We're very happy that we have players like Sangakkara and Herath, who are among the best in the world at the moment."
Spin bowling shapes as a particular strength for Kandurata, who have two slow-bowling allrounders in their ranks in Jayasuriya and Milinda Siriwardene, in addition to Mendis and Herath. Although Mendis' statistics make plain his decline in the longer formats, he still averages 12.84 and has a strike-rate of 12.6 in Twenty20 internationals, where his variety has remained effective.
"We will have a big advantage with the quality of spinners that we have. They will be playing in helpful conditions in India and maybe some of the teams aren't very comfortable against spin - we're playing the New Zealand side in the qualifiers. That said we'll still have to play very well as a team to go through."
Because the Super Fours tournament, through which Kandurata qualified, was only one week in length, the team has only played four matches, but neither Thirimanne nor the coach Chaminda Vaas anticipated a weakness in the side's lack of cohesion.
"We've only played four matches, but we played really well in that tournament, and we've also trained very hard in the last few weeks," Vaas said. "We've got a very balanced team. The batting is balanced and we've got good fast bowlers as well as spinners. We've got the best possible combination to do well in the tournament."
Andrew Fidel Fernando is ESPNcricinfo's Sri Lanka correspondent. He tweets here