Jayawardene predicts close contest
Mahela Jayawardene, the Sri Lanka captain, has predicted a close contest in the three-Test series against India, while his counterpart Anil Kumble emphasised his team's consistency in the run-up to the tour, during a press conference in Colombo to launch the series.
"Every time we've played them, there has been some really good cricket played by both teams, who possess some good-quality players," Jayawardene said. "I am sure that the public will have a great series to watch."
"We thoroughly enjoy playing India, at home or away," he said "It's always been a tough challenge. There is good rivalry with our neighbours."
Jayawardene said his team's focus was on winning the series and not on stopping Sachin Tendulkar from getting the 172 runs needed to overtake Brian Lara, who has 11,957 runs to his name, as the highest run-scorer. "I don't think we will try that hard not to give him the record. We are going to treat Sachin in the same manner as anybody else in the Indian camp," he said. "It will be a great milestone if he achieves it, but our focus will be on the series.
He also spoke about his performances against India. "Personally I have a couple of milestones against India. I made my debut against them and also scored my first double-hundred against them. It's a pretty good team for me to play against."
Kumble was upbeat about India's prospects considering the players at his disposal and the team's recent record. "The last time we played Sri Lanka in India we beat them. We are confident," he said. "We have Zaheer Khan back in the team with his experience of bowling in subcontinental conditions, Ishant Sharma who has really progressed well as a seamer, and Harbhajan Singh is back as well."
"We have a good combination and we have done pretty well in the lead up to the Test series," he said. "In the last one year or so we have been really consistent with our performances. That's something which we will take forward."
Kumble, who has not played in Sri Lanka since the 1993-94 tour, said the senior members of the team had experience of the conditions there. "The conditions would be pretty similar [to those in India] and the players we have in the team are all quite used to these conditions, especially the batting line-up. They are familiar with what to expect."
He also expected his team's middle order to cope with the threat posed by Ajantha Mendis, who destroyed India in the Asia Cup earlier this month with figures of 6 for 13. " We have the quality [to counter Mendis] ... our middle order has more than 30,000 Test runs and four of them have played more than 100 Tests," he said. "It will be challenging and I am sure our batsmen will definitely cope with that. It is something obviously we need to be on the look out for."
Meanwhile, former captain Hashan Tillakaratne has been appointed as the Sri Lankan team's manager. He replaces Shriyan Samararatne.
India play a three-day warm-up match against a Sri Lanka Board XI from July 18 to prepare for the first Test, which begins on July 23.