Sri Lanka captain Kumar Sangakkara has reposed faith in his depleted bowling attack for the second Test. The hosts are without the two bowlers who won them the first Test in Galle by sharing 15 wickets: Muttiah Muralitharan has retired, while Lasith Malinga has been rested due to a stiff knee. Sri Lanka will bank on the services of Ajantha Mendis, who replaces Murali, and could bring in Dilhara Fernando for Malinga.
"Malinga is a big loss to be honest," Sangakkara said in a pre-match press conference in Colombo. "He troubled all the batsmen. With Malinga everyone was trying to survive rather than score off him because they know how dangerous he is.
"Malinga is effective with both the old and the new ball it doesn't matter whether the wicket is flat, with bounce or is slow; he is equally threatening on all surfaces. When a player like that goes out it's a huge blow. We are looking forward to having him in the third Test. He's going to take this game off, get fit and get back into the fold."
Apart from Fernando, Sri Lanka have two other pace options in Dammika Prasad and Nuwan Pradeep who didn't feature in Galle. "Dilhara, Prasad and Pradeep have all been quality bowlers for us over the years," Sangakkara said. "Pradeep has just finished an A team tour of Australia where he's troubled all the Aussie batsmen who have grown up on quick bouncy tracks. He's got a lot of pace and he is averaging in the high 140s. Dilhara is in the mid 140s and Dammika is one of the quickest bowlers we have.
"These guys are around to do a job for us and whenever they are selected if they are mentally prepared to go and do the hard work in a Test match and bowl in the right areas, they are going to be effective as well. Let's see how they share the workload. The competition is pretty high for fast bowlers."
Sri Lanka have Mendis, Suraj Randiv and Rangana Herath, who also starred with the bat, to pick among the spinners, and Sangakkara said the final XI would comprise those who were best suited for the conditions on offer at the SSC. "These guys [the spinners] will have to share the wickets and make sure it's a partnership effort in bowling rather than depending on just Murali or Lasith. We'll look at all three spinners and pick the most effective ones. With a batting line up like India you need to pick wickets.
"Rangana bowled very steady with the ball and he was always there or thereabouts right throughout the game. He didn't do anything wrong but we just have to make sure we make the right decision for the conditions we have and the batsmen we face," Sangakkara said.
Mendis proved successful in the tour game, grabbing a six-for, and tormented India during their previous series in Sri Lanka, grabbing 26 wickets. However, since then, he has been handled relatively easily by the Indian batsmen. "Unfortunately for him he took about 26 wickets in his first Test series and in his first big final he took 6-13 so people have been expecting him to do the same over and over again. It doesn't work that way," Sangakkara said. "Also he's played a lot of cricket especially against India, the more you play the players get more used to you. He did very well for us in the warm-up game so taking the field tomorrow I am sure he is going to do a great job for us."
Despite the absence of key bowlers, Sangakkara admitted testing the Indian batsmen would be a challenge. "Test cricket is about being consistent - length and line and making sure you put a lot of pressure on the batsmen continuously not for just over one session but over four to five sessions. It's going to be a challenge but I am sure it is something which the boys are going to enjoy."