Dyson: Sri Lanka are still on track
After the disappointment of their early exit from the Champions Trophy, after an error-strewn fielding performance on a bitterly cold autumnal day at the Rose Bowl, John Dyson, Sri Lanka's ever-upbeat coach, has predicted a quick resumption of Sri Lanka's winning run in Pakistan this month.
Just days after their return from England and after a practice week that has been marred by wet weather in Colombo, Sri Lanka will depart for Pakistan on Sunday for a four-week tour that includes a tri-series also involving Zimbabwe and a two-Test series with Pakistan.
Their first-round defeat to England, the eventual finalists, broke a winning run that had carried Sri Lanka to the No. 2 spot in the ICC's official ODI rankings. But Dyson refused to be downbeat, describing the loss as "just one bad day".
"We were caught on a day that was cold and wet and given the vast change in climatic conditions it affected our fielding game," Dyson said as the team limbered up for Pakistan. "We missed a couple of pretty good chances and we paid for that in the end. We won the toss, choose the right thing to do, and bowled pretty well. If we had held on to our chances we would have restricted England to a reasonable total."
"But we have won 18 out of the 22 one-day matches we have played in the last 12 months and also won four and drawn four of the eight Tests that we have played - our fielding had been a big part of that success and we just had one bad day," he added. "We are going to a country with similar climatic conditions to our own - although perhaps a little colder - and I expect them to continue the good form they have shown in the past few months."
Sri Lanka will be expected to breeze past a second-rate Zimbabwe side still ravaged by their ongoing player dispute, and fight it out with Pakistan for the Paktel Cup. But Dyson has already discussed the dangers of complacency with the team. He also expects Pakistan to present a tough opposition after signs of an upturn under coach Bob Woolmer.
"Pakistan are playing at home and can be expected to perform well under their own conditions, like most teams do," said Dyson. "They have some superb players and there has been a pick-up in their game and their loss in the Champions Trophy to West Indies, a result that few people predicted, will be a bit of a kick in the backside."
"We have also spoken about complacency against Zimbabwe and the need to guard against it. We have played so much against them recently that they are starting to get know us - we're almost on first-name terms. The guys are aware of that they know that they need to be on top of their game to make sure that Zimbabwe don't slip one under us.
Dyson views the tour as an important opportunity for some of the younger players to make a name for themselves: "We have got a couple of young guys going away. Maharoof is developing fast and I will be keen for him to be given opportunities with the bat. For [Thilina] Kandamby, it will be good to see him grab his opportunity as we need a good middle-order player who is also a good hitter. Dilhara [Fernando], meanwhile, has shown some excellent form in the nets and he is ripe for coming back in."
Sri Lanka will be missing Muttiah Muralitharan, who is still recovering from shoulder surgery, and Dyson is looking forward to seeing how his trio of spinners - Upul Chandana, Rangana Herath and Kaushal Lokuarachchi - respond to the added responsibility.
"We have shown that we can win without Murali at home during the South Africa series, but this will be a bigger test as it is outside the country and against a very good cricket team. The spinners will be put under a lot more pressure this time to fill his boots but they have stepped up before and it will be interesting to see how they handle the extra pressure."