Flintoff's absence will benefit us - Jayawardene
Sri Lankan captain Mahela Jaywardene has said that his side will look to capitalise on Andrew Flintoff's absence when they take on England in the five-match one-day series starting at the Rangiri Dambulla Stadium on October 1.
Flintoff was forced to pull-out of the series due to a troublesome left ankle. He also missed the last bilateral one-day series between the two teams in 2006 where England were walloped 5-0 at home.
"Andrew is a top-class allrounder," Jayawardene told The Nation, a Colombo-based daily. "England have a more balanced attack with him in their side because he is a batting allrounder who bowls really well. He is a matchwinner and his absence is obviously an advantage for us."
Jayawardene indicated that the England one-day side was stronger than the one they faced last year. "They have got some really good allrounders coming through," he said. "We met them in the World Cup and it was a very close game. England will be a good challenge for us. It's a big season ahead and we need to make sure we start on a very good note.
"They also have some quality batsmen who play different roles, some we haven't seen. We need to understand what those are and try to counter-attack them."
Commenting on the Sri Lankan squad, Jayawardene said it was a tough call for the selectors to pick allrounder Kaushal Lokuarachchi ahead of fellow legspinner Malinga Bandara.
"Loku's been performing really well in one-day internationals. We know what Bandara is capable of doing. Thinking of the future, you never know how long Sanath [Jayasuriya] is going to continue playing. We might have to fit in a spinning allrounder in the middle of our batting line-up. It's good for us to try a few things right now, see what Loku has to offer and how we can have different combinations going forward."
On Muttiah Muralitharan, Jayawardene doubted whether he would be fit for the series. Muralitharan is recovering from a strained right bicep which he sustained while bowling long spells during his county stint with Lancashire.
"It's good to have Murali around but the reality is that he won't be around for a long time. He won't be playing all the matches. We need to give him adequate rest. Even the workload on [Chaminda] Vaas must be limited. When opportunities arise we have to try out new blood. There are a few guys we have earmarked. We will them bring slowly into the system."
Chanaka Welagedera, Mahela Udawatte and Dilruwan Perera are some of the players in the short list.