Rumesh Ratnayake, Sri Lanka's interim coach, has denied the team's dire form thus far against Australia is the result of internal discord, but he agrees that greater continuity would be useful for a team that has not won a Test match since the retirement of Muttiah Muralitharan.
Sri Lanka trail Australia by a distant 237 runs with two days to play in Pallekele after losing the first Test by 125 runs, and Ratnayake offered no excuses for the team's performance. "This sort of form has been a pattern for the last few months," he said. "You can't give any excuses. I am a firm believer that they have played at the highest level. The Australians have been without any cricket for the past so many months. If they can adjust why can't we. The staff changing I don't think is a reason. If we can have continuity as a player group I am sure things can be better. That's no excuse for this game."
Central to murmurs about the Sri Lankan dressing room is the injury status of Ajantha Mendis, who complained of back pain and withdrew on the opening morning of the second Test after being left out of the first. Mendis did not bowl in Galle for four days, a fact that had escaped Ratnayake's attention.
"His issue was he had a back injury and he had not bowled for four days in Galle. I came to know only four days after. It mainly because I was involved with other things," Ratnayake said. "I am involved with the playing group. I take the responsibility of not knowing that."
Ratnayake also said there was no rift in the team. "There's nothing wrong with the team. The team mechanics are wonderful. If you can ask one of the people who are working with us. The staff who come in and go out its quite normal. Even before I came I heard so many things. But I haven't seen anything of that nature so far."
As for the team's batting, which has completely failed to stand up to an inexperienced Australian bowling attack in two first innings, Ratnayake said faults were being addressed.
"Everybody is aware of what we have to do and what we need to be doing," he said. "If you saw the way the Aussies batted it looked a placid wicket from day one. We didn't capitalise and we are aware of what we did. Rain is not in the mindset at all although every one might think that way. The mindset is playing positive game. We know what they have planned against us. We've got a strategy to how to counterattack. We can have strategies but whether that comes off I don't know."
Ratnayake revealed the team had viewed footage of India's miraculous victory over Australia at Kolkata in 2001 as a way to keep the dressing room positive about the hefty deficit that confronts them.
"We have been watching matches like the one between Australia and India in Kolkata where Australia won the match for the first three days and how they lost in the last two days," he said. "We have been trying to encourage people. It's never too late. Everyone might think that it's all gloomy. But we have been watching what Rahul Dravid and VVS Laxman have been doing and hopefully that will inspire."