Sri Lanka in New Zealand, 2005-06 December 28, 2005

Atapattu urges team to focus on cricket


Marvan Atapattu will be looking for reasons to smile in New Zealand © AFP

Sri Lankan cricketers returned to New Zealand with Marvan Atapattu, their captain, urging his players to focus on the one-day series starting Saturday and not to be distracted by the anniversary of the tsunami that devastated parts of their country a year ago.

Sri Lanka and New Zealand will resurrect the remaining four internationals in a five-match one-day series that was aborted when the tourists returned to their stricken country after the first game a year ago.

Atapattu said, "In terms of cricket I would rather think we get on with the game now and play to our potential, than thinking about it too much." He said things were slowly improving in Sri Lanka, "with the help of so many countries, so many people to get our country back in shape and we are so grateful for them. We are getting there."

Sri Lanka arrived in New Zealand after a below-par effort in India. They were thrashed 6-1 in the one-day series and then lost the three-match Test series 2-0. Atapattu said, "We are very keen to put things right considering the fact that we haven't had a good last month in India."

He said the Sri Lankans had a lot of one-day cricket ahead with a series in Australia comaing up, and he served a warning to New Zealand that "we've got to play to our best sooner rather than later."

Atapattu noted that history was on Sri Lanka's side as they had "turned things round" in New Zealand in 2002 after coming out of a 1-4 series loss to South Africa. "So hopefully, it'll be the same thing this time around."

Among four changes from the one-day side that played India has been the recall of fast bowler Lasith Malinga, who used his unusual technique to good effect in two Tests against New Zealand here in April. Also selected was Malinga Bandara, 25, who has never played a one-day international but whose Test experience includes a match against New Zealand as a teenager in 1998.

New Zealand lost bowler Andre Adams Wednesday after he broke a bone in his right hand during fielding practice. He has been replaced by James Franklin. The first match in the revived series is in Queenstown on Saturday, followed by games in Christchurch on January 3, Wellington on January 6 and Napier on January 8.