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May 27, 2007
"If they weren't thoroughly drained out both mentally and physically having gone through a stressful 2007 World Cup playing the best 11 nations in the world, the result in the three-match one-day international series against Pakistan in Abu Dhabi would have been different," said Tissera.
Sri Lanka hardly had time to recover from a tough World Cup campaign, which saw them finish runners-up to Australia. From the manner in which they played the first two matches of the Abu Dhabi series it was quite evident that they were struggling to match the intensity they showed at the World Cup. They looked tired and jaded and the faces of some of the players yearned for a rest.
However, having gone down 0-2 in the series, they earned a consolation win in the third match, thanks to Mahela Jayawardene and Dilhara Fernando. "A lot of people are critical of Dilhara's bowling," said Tissera. "He is a damn good bowler on his day. The way he bowled at the Pakistanis was world class stuff." However, he admitted that there were times when Fernando lost confidence in his bowling when he started with a no-ball or a wide. "It is something he has to mentally overcome."
There was no doubt Sri Lanka missed the services of three of their three experienced plaers - Muttiah Muralitharan, Chaminda Vaas and Kumar Sangakkara - all of whom are currently involved in the English county circuit.
"Let's face it you cannot replace them in a hurry," said Tissera for whom this was the final series as manager of the Sri Lanka team before he quits at the end of the month having completed a two-year contract with SLC. "Sri Lanka cricket's got to get used to being without them. In a couple of years time some of them will be out of the game."
Sri Lanka tried out two newcomers in the series - fast bowler Ishara Amarasinghe and batsman Malinda Warnapura - and Tissera was impressed with what he saw. "Ishara has the potential to become a good fast bowler. But he needs to by physically and mentally fit to play international cricket. It is a totally different stage at international level. He bowled a good first spell but got cramps and had to leave the field. Mahela missed him badly in the latter overs." Of Warnapura, Tissera stated that one could not judge him on just one performance, but noted that his style and technique was best suited to the longer game.
Tissera was all praise for out-going coach Tom Moody and the support staff who "did an excellent job" in moulding the team into a winning unit. "We have done most of what is required to make us a strong unit," he said. "The team has made vast improvements in the past two years. The boys are really sad that Tom is going but they have accepted the reasons for him going. He has done a great job with the team.
"I am sure the team can carry on from here onwards without Tom. They have a very good, intelligent and sensible captain in Mahela. He is well organised and motivated in whatever he does. Part of the team's success is due to him."
A look back at five high-profile exhibition matches