Arnold reveals a new spring in his step
Russel Arnold will be playing for his international future when he leads Sri Lanka A during their tough tour of South Africa and Kenya starting on Monday.
Dropped from the national squad after a disappointing World Cup, he returned for the start of the Bank Alfalah Cup, but was jettisoned again after a single match.
With his confidence at rock bottom it was unwise to recall him so soon for that tri-series. Now though, after a long break and with domestic runs under his belt, he claims to have a "new spring in his step" and is looking forward to the chance of reclaiming his space in the side.
"The South African tour will be a stepping stone for me to make a comeback to the national team," Arnold, now 29 years old, told reporters before the Sri Lanka A team's departure to South Africa.
"I think if I can focus all my energies on this tour, England should take care of itself. I will be disappointed if I don't make it to the team against England."
Signs that he was coming out of the bad patch were evident during the Quadrangular series two weeks ago where he made two big hundreds (160 and 147) for Old Peterites and then followed it up with a brilliant unbeaten 93 in the J.R. Jayawardene trophy one-day fixture against traditional rivals SSC.
"The way things have gone for me in the last couple of weekends I am confident. When I go out to bat there is that little bit of extra spring in my step. I feel fresh and I know where I stand," said Arnold.
"I did spend a lot of time in the nets and worked a lot on my fitness. But my main focus was to clear my mind. The feeling of failure sometimes tells very heavily on you. Sometimes you burden yourself with unwanted things in your mind. I should be stronger and more focused on what I have to do now," Arnold continued.
"I have experienced drops in form during my career but this is the first time a thing like this has happened. It also came at a very important time for Sri Lanka cricket. If I was in slightly better nick I think things might have been a little bit different for the team.
"In the World Cup semi-final against Australia we were 60-6 when I walked in. If I was my normal self and on top of my game, there was a slight chance we could have turned things around," he said.
Sri Lanka A will play seven games in South Africa followed by five one-day internationals in Kenya. With England due in Sri Lanka in November Arnold - and his teammates - have a perfect opportunity to press their claims.
The selectors will focus most on the batting, which has been inconsistent throughout the past year. Apart from Arnold, Michael Vandort, Naveed Nawaz, Jehan Mubarak, Ian Daniel and Avishka Gunawardena will all be vying for places in the national squad.
The fast bowlers will also be looked at closely too though, especially with Prabath Nissanka certain to miss the England tour because of his troublesome knees. Currently recovering from surgery, Nissanka is targeting the Australia tour in February for a comeback.
"From Sri Lanka's point of view this `A' tour is a great opportunity for the players. It comes at a time when there is a not much cricket being played and a lot of people will be following it closely. It is also coming at a time when our cricket is not at the top and just before an England tour," said Arnold.
"The team is talented and they are very keen to do well. They believe in me and I am enjoying the captaincy with them at the moment. It's helped that the selectors named the squad so early as we have got to know each other well," he said.
Captaincy is nothing new to Arnold, who has led his school St. Peter's College and then his club NCC (where he is the present captain), his firm Hatton National Bank and also Board XI and A teams against touring sides.
"Captaincy is keeping me a bit sharper and given me more responsibilities to contribute with the bat," added Arnold.