Australian experience invaluable for Sri Lanka's young
In choosing their squad for the start of this series, Australia's selectors made no attempt to hide the fact that they were starting to plan for the 2015 World Cup. Sri Lanka might not have trumpeted it, but they too are looking ahead to that tournament. They have been for some time. While they haven't rested veterans and other key players for this series - Mahela Jayawardene, Tillakaratne Dilshan and Rangana Herath are all in their mid-30s - they have ensured there is plenty of youth in the group.
There is Akila Dananjaya, the 19-year-old offspinner who emerged last year as a net bowler who had seemingly mastered the doosra and the carrom ball. There is Kushal Perera, the uncapped 22-year-old wicketkeeper-batsman. There is Dinesh Chandimal, Lahiru Thirimanne and Thisara Perera, all of whom have become ODI regulars in the past two years, yet are still in the 22-23 age group. Those last three already have experience of conditions in Australia, where the next World Cup will be held. Further exposure will be invaluable.
"It's a very young squad. I think after the last World Cup we've gone in that direction, when we came to Australia for the triangular [series] as well last year we had a very young team," Jayawardene said ahead of the first ODI in Melbourne. "Chandimal, Thirimanne, all those guys are regulars in the one-day team, so going forward you need to look at that [the World Cup]. It's in about another two years' time so all those guys will be looked at.
"The couple of young spinners we've bought in, Ajantha [Mendis] is coming back after an injury layoff, Akila Dananjaya is here as well so those guys will get the exposure they require to bowl in these wickets. We're definitely looking at developing a side for the next four or five years."
While spin might not be the weapon that it can be at home in Sri Lanka, the quality of Mendis, Herath and Dananjaya will make them difficult propositions for Australia's batsmen - even considering the new rules that allow only four fielders outside the circle. Jayawardene said Mendis would draw confidence from his strong record against Australia in the shorter formats, though mostly in T20, and for Dananjaya the trip would be a valuable learning experience.
"Ajantha is a class act and he'll come in with a lot of confidence, knowing that he has had a lot of success against them, but it's just another game of cricket," Jayawardene said. "He has to deliver. We've got a lot of variations in our bowling line-up. That's something that we will try and make use of to create some problems for that line-up. Most of our spinners are looking forward to the opportunity of bowling in these conditions and trying to improve their tricks and see how they can become better bowlers outside Sri Lanka.
"We'll see how it goes with Akila. We wanted him to come and learn. [He may get] an opportunity - we've got a lot of cricket, seven matches is a lot of games. Hopefully he will get a bit of a taste of Australia as well. We just want him to develop into a bowler that we want him to be. This is the start of it. This is his first tour away from Sri Lanka. It will be a good investment for us.
"We've had the opportunity to play in Australia the last three years now, so most of the guys have had that opportunity. The guys who haven't had that opportunity, it will be great for them, especially on different wickets because every venue will provide us with a different surface. We need to adjust to those surfaces pretty quickly. That will be a challenge and the guys will learn from that."
But spin isn't Sri Lanka's only weapon in the limited-overs games. The presence of Lasith Malinga, who has spent the past few weeks in the Big Bash League convincing Australians he is unplayable, is a major boost. David Hussey said this week Malinga, his Melbourne Stars team-mate, was in the form of his life. That kind of hype cannot hurt the Sri Lankans.
"I saw what Huss has [said about Malinga]," Jayawardene said. "He's got people thinking, that's good. It's good to know that people are thinking about it obviously and they'll probably expect those deliveries to come at them as well. We've got a few other guys who have got that x-factor in our line-up. As long as one or the other clicks and gets the job done for us on the day."
Brydon Coverdale is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets here