Sri Lanka eye tournament as preparation for World Twenty20
Mahela Jayawardene, the Sri Lankan captain, has said the team's campaign in the four-nation Twenty20 tournament in Canada would help in strategising for the ICC World Twenty20 in England in 2009. Sri Lanka, finalists of the 2007 World Cup, failed to reach the semi-finals of the inaugural ICC World Twenty20 and have not played a Twenty20 international since.
"We don't have that many Tweny20 tournaments before the World Cup except the domestic Twenty20," Jayawardene said. "The Canada Cup will be an opportunity for most of those picked in the squad. We will be looking for fast-bowling allrounders who are essential in this type of competition. We have two quality spinners [Muttiah Muralitharan and Ajantha Mendis] capable of bowling under any condition and specialist batsmen to bat in different situations."
The squad for the four-day tournament in Canada has four fast-bowling allrounders - Farveez Maharoof, Thilan Thushara, Kaushalya Weeraratne and Dilhara Lokuhettige. Jayawardene said the experience a few of the players gained in the IPL could prove valuable. Maharoof, who is returning after an eight-month injury lay-off, performed well in India, scoring 125 runs at 20.83 and a strike-rate of 158.22 in ten games for the Delhi Daredevils. He was impressive with the ball too, taking 15 wickets at 16.60 apiece at an economy-rate under seven.
"Maha [Maharoof] is an ideal player for the Twenty20 version," Jayawardene said. "He can bowl with the new ball and can bat anywhere in the line-up. He hasn't played much cricket since returning from injury. This tournament is ideal for him to make a comeback."
Sri Lanka will be without their vice-captain, Kumar Sangakkara, who recently underwent a surgery on his right index finger. In his absence Jayawardene hoped others would take up more responsibility.
"[Tillakaratne] Dilshan is one of the senior members of the team and this new position would give him added responsibility," he said. "As the wicketkeeper he will play in all the matches." Sangakkara's absence also gives the likes Jehan Mubarak, Jeevantha Kulatunga and Thilina Kandamby a chance to play in the top order.
Jayawardene admitted the team didn't know much about conditions in Canada. "We don't have a clue at all what kind of conditions and wickets we will come up against. I am told the weather at this time of the year in Toronto is rather chilly and temperatures around 15ºC.
Confident over his team's ability to adjust to the Twenty20 format, Jayawardene said they would have to prevent being complacent against minnows Zimbabwe and Canada, their opponents along with Pakistan. "Zimbabwe once upset the Aussies [at last year's World Twenty20]. In this type of cricket you have only to make one mistake and there is no time to make a comeback."
Sri Lanka play their first game against Zimbabwe on October 10, and will face each side once. The top two teams make it to the final on the 13th.