Pakistan v Sri Lanka 2013-14

Friendly foes await Sri Lanka

Andrew Fidel Fernando

December 9, 2013

Comments: 132 | Text size: A | A

Dinesh Chandimal is all smiles after his side's win, Sri Lanka v South Africa, 1st ODI, Colombo, July 20, 2013
Sri Lanka's tour of UAE will begin with two Twenty20s under Dinesh Chandimal © AFP

In Sri Lanka's fickle cricketing landscape, Pakistan have lately been viewed as one of the team's friendliest foes. Sri Lanka fans' admiration for Pakistan's cricket has been founded on shared ground. Most obviously, there is resemblance in cricketing philosophy; Lasith Malinga and Sohail Tanvir are products of their unique milieu, but it is not difficult to imagine a round-arm slinger from Rawalpindi, or a wrong-footed left armer from Rathgama. No other nation, perhaps, could have easily produced either. 

There is also the rich recent history of spin, shrouded in mystery. Between Pakistan and Sri Lanka, they have owned the progenitor of the doosra in Saqlain Mushtaq, the man who made the ball famous in Muttiah Muralitharan, its best current practitioner in Saeed Ajmal, and a rising bowler with an improving version of the ball, in Sachithra Senanayake.

Then there are the shambolic administrations, which more often appear to hinder the national sides than support them, while Sri Lanka's newly-formed one-sided rivalry with India has bred another thread of fraternal goodwill. Coincidentally too, the tour will be both Dav Whatmore and Graham Ford's final weeks in charge of their sides. The former was effectively let go, the latter chose to walk.

Both sides also have produced alluring players of spin, many of whom have retired or are just about to, and young men are now charged with filling shoes and scoreboards. In that regeneration, though, there are mutual hints of decline. 

Ten months of selection policy focused on grooming the next generation has not future-proofed Sri Lanka's batting unit yet. Dinesh Chandimal and Lahiru Thirimanne have had encouraging returns in Tests, but their limited-overs statistics don't yet suggest they are the next Mahela Jayawardene and Kumar Sangakkara - whom they will inevitably be compared with. Jayawardene's absence from the limited-overs leg of this series may allow both batsmen to bat higher up in the order, which should suit their abilities better than the finishing roles they had been saddled with.

In Tests, both teams will also be fielding young, inexperienced opening pairs. Shan Masood and Khurram Manzoor are at almost identical places in their career as Sri Lanka's likely openers, Dimuth Karunaratne and Kaushal Silva. All four have a shot at embedding themselves in the international arena, on tracks that should not be far from those on which they excel at home.

Though they are at disparate ends of their careers, there are similarities for the teams' main captains too. Misbah-ul-Haq is an unpopular captain for some, and while Angelo Mathews has had moderate success at the helm, he is still treading lightly as a leader and his personal form has been inconsistent. A poor tour for either man might have loosened their grip on the reins, only, there are few viable alternatives.

The teams are well-matched on most counts. Pakistan beat Sri Lanka 1-0 in their last Test series in the UAE, but Sri Lanka reversed that scoreline at home, when they dominated the three-match series last year. Sri Lanka's batting perhaps gives them the edge in ODIs and Twenty20s, while Pakistan have just returned from a successful trip to South Africa, where the highly-rated India side is presently being humiliated.  

And, perhaps, that is Pakistan's greatest advantage in the approach to the tour. While Sri Lanka have been reduced to playing matches against themselves and watching rain ruin their first meaningful cricket since July, Pakistan are fighting-fit from five months on the international treadmill. Their Test loss to Zimbabwe in September now seems a distant memory, after more encouraging results against South Africa.

Sri Lanka, meanwhile, have not played overseas since July, and in Tests, the New Year's Eve match will be their first against a top-eight opposition since this year's New Year Test in Sydney. One of the foremost reasons Sri Lanka Cricket refused Pakistan's request to play one Test under lights is because its players would already be adjusting to playing Tests again; an orange ball and floodlights may have complicated preparation further - particularly as there are no practice matches before the Tests.

There is already buzz in Sri Lanka for this tour, primarily because the public has had so long to look forward to it. It is a stage for young men of both teams to make defining plays, and with two major limited-overs trophies now on the horizon, raising stakes further, the subplots unfolding over a six-week battle may prove just as engrossing as the major narrative.

Andrew Fidel Fernando is ESPNcricinfo's Sri Lanka correspondent. He tweets here

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© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

Posted by   on (December 11, 2013, 16:22 GMT)

It is so damn true. My father has been to Sri Lanka and he was all praise about how hospitable and loving Sri Lankans are. In every match of Sri Lanka, I and my father are supporting Sri Lanka. I felt bad how they didn't win a title despite playing quite a few finals of ICC tournaments. Hats off to cricinfo for having such a perfect title.

Posted by stormy16 on (December 11, 2013, 8:52 GMT)

I see these teams as opposites in terms that SL's strength is batting while Pakistans is bowling however, I think Pakistan are favorties on paper. The Pakistan batting may have had issues against SA but SL bowling offers nothing even close to that challenge and SL's batting is fragile at best. One of the features of the tour should be the battle of the spinners and again Ajmal is second to none but SL do play him reasonably well.

Posted by   on (December 11, 2013, 8:09 GMT)

Best of luck to both teams, love to see the friendship prospering among these two nations

Posted by Flat_Trac_Bally on (December 11, 2013, 7:46 GMT)

Good luck both Pak and SL, the best Asian teams within the cricket pitch as well as outside the pitch. I am pretty much impressed with the friendly comments from each other. As usual, fake giant of cricket (giant only in ranking) is taking the cricket as well as the comments to all time low.

Posted by Fast_Track_Bully on (December 11, 2013, 6:59 GMT)

@Black_Rider. In the last tour India beat SA in a test and leveled the series and was 4 wicket away from victory in the last test.. Also ODIs went 2-3 where SA escaped with some umpiring errors.

Posted by Htc-Android on (December 11, 2013, 6:58 GMT)

@Fast_Track_Bully. So what if we lose one ODI by 258 runs. Dint ur team lose to us by 245 runs. After that loss we improved ourselves and chased 300+runs in the last two Odis. Chandimal was the top scorer in that series. We will see how ur youngsters perform there. Dont forget NZ, PAk and AUs also got out for less than 50 runs.

Posted by sachin_vvsfan on (December 11, 2013, 6:51 GMT)

@Saad Kiani While I acknowledge that there are trolls from every nation what is disgusting is that the authors also chose such path. Read this

"while Pakistan have just returned from a successful trip to South Africa, where the highly-rated India side is presently being humiliated"

Is this really necessary to bring India in to this? I don't remember seeing this even from Indian authors.

@mera_bharat_mahan_hai LOL clever imposter. I wonder why you are posting comments but not hiding ?

Posted by   on (December 11, 2013, 5:47 GMT)

Love for Pak and respect for SL....Must be a great series

Posted by Black_Rider on (December 11, 2013, 5:42 GMT)

@Fast_Track_Bully:: Please check the last 2 odis of that series where SL manage to chase 300+ scores. SL also beat SA in a Test also.

@mera_bharat_mahan_hai :: Wonderful comment mate....

Posted by Fast_Track_Bully on (December 11, 2013, 4:32 GMT)

@Blade-Runner, @Htc-Android. Do you think loss of 258 runs is lesser than 141 runs defeat? Check own teams performance before comment.

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