Adjusting to conditions a challenge - Mathews
Angelo Mathews brushed off suggestions that Sri Lanka have arrived in England without adequate preparation, but identified his side's batting as the area requiring most attention, as they build up to the Champions Trophy with three warm-up matches at Edgbaston.
"There has been a little bit of doubt; people kept saying that the boys are in India and they haven't had good preparation," Mathews said. "But I want to write it off because we are professionals and we need to get prepared for this kind of tournament because it's a huge event for everyone, personally and as a team. So I think we've done our preparation as a team and individually."
Mathews backed his senior batsmen, like Mahela Jayawardene and Kumar Sangakkara, who failed to perform in the IPL; Sangakkara, in fact, was left out of the playing XI for the second half of the IPL. They were also unable to return to Sri Lanka to train with the remainder of the squad, despite a written request to the BCCI from Sri Lanka Cricket.
"I think the senior batsmen have been world class for us. It's not even a concern when it comes to a tournament like this because they've been here, they've done it, and I have the confidence in them." he said "I'm really proud to have these guys in my team because I can get a lot of information and help."
Nine of Sri Lanka's probable first XI arrived in Sri Lanka piecemeal over the last two weeks. They will now attempt to transition from the slow, turning pitches in the India to conditions better suiting fast bowlers in England, in just over a week.
Those who did not travel to India however, played in a practice tournament in Pallekele, which sought to ready Sri Lanka for English conditions by attempting to recreate the seaming pitches they might encounter there
"We've been playing in low [and] slow conditions and very hot and humid conditions in the past couple months. I think trying to adjust to the conditions is going to be the main challenge." said Mathews. "Especially early summer is always going to be like this; wet, and it's going to swing and seam. I think that's our main challenge as batters especially,"
He believed his bowlers would have an easier time adjusting, citing both their experience and their propensity to excel in swinging conditions. Sri Lanka drew an ODI series with Australia in January, where Nuwan Kulasekara, in particular, extracted substantial movement to trouble batsmen, while Thisara Perera and Mathews are also capable of moving the ball off the pitch to good effect.
"I think the bowlers have got the firepower. We haven't got the pace, but we know how to go in these conditions. In one group guys like Lasith Malinga, Perera have got that firepower. Malinga and Kulasekara, have been our strike bowlers the past three or four years, so we bank on them."
Sri Lanka have been one of the most consistent sides in major tournaments, making four ICC finals and a semi-final in the last six years. Mathews could not put his finger on why they have been unable to convert those chances, but was hopeful of maintaining their impressive run in major events.
"Most teams won't be complacent with us, but I think our past consistency is just a platform, because we need to raise the bar a bit. We've done pretty well on the big stage, and it's just that I can't really point out what went wrong in the finals and semi-finals, but we are hoping to better those performances But I think for now, as a team, we just want to make the maximum out of the first 10 days in England."