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Pakistan a different team on home ground: Jayasuriya

Karachi, Feb 7: Sri Lanka captain Sanath Jayasuriya said here on Monday that his team was not overawed by Pakistan's recent failures and his own team's brilliant performance.

"Pakistan are a different team when they play in Pakistan. Besides, I don't think they did bad in Australia. In fact, they reached the final which is a good achievement," he told a press conference hours after his team arrived on a six-week tour. Sri Lanka open the tour on Tuesday when they face Aamir Sohail-led Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) eleven in a warm up match at the National Stadium.

Jayasuriya, who gave limited overs cricket a new dimension by using the long handle in the first 15 overs, said the series against Pakistan is always challenging and gruelling.

"If you have to beat them in their den, you really need to play out of your skin. They are a different component outside Pakistan and different team in their own conditions," he said.

Sri Lanka on their last tour in 1995-96 came back from one Test down to clinch the series 2-1. Similar was the pattern in the limited overs series.

But Jayasuriya, Chaminda Vaas, Muttiah Muralitharan, Pramodya Wickremasinghe, Ravindra Pushpakumara are the only survivors of that historic tour. Arjuna Ranatunga, Aravinda de Silva, Hashan Tillekeratne and Roshan Mahanama, who were the backbone of that triumph, lost their places after Sri Lanka failed to defend their World Cup crown in England last year.

"Basically, we have picked youngsters for one-day matches because we want to groom them," Jayasuriya said, adding: "We haven't decided what changes will be made for the Test matches."

Dav Whatmore, in his second tenure as Sri Lanka coach, defended the much criticized Pakistan team saying: "Not many teams have performed well in Australia because of the difficult conditions there.

"I also feel that they didn't play as good as they could have."

Whatmore said the Sri Lankan team was in a transition phase. He said if the team that played in the 1999 World Cup and the squad which is here is compared "you will find a huge difference.

"But for the last six months, we have been playing good cricket. I am pleased to say that the transition phase is heading in the right direction."

Sri Lanka defeated Australia in the home Test series and also won the one-day series in Sri Lanka. Sri Lanka also defeated Zimbabwe in Zimbabwe in Tests and one-dayers two months back.

Whatmore said his objective was to transform this bunch of cricketers into a competitive unit. "We are working very hard together with the senior players by introducing youngsters hoping that they would grasp the extra pressure quicker than what otherwise might be the case."

Jayasuriya said Sri Lanka had played good cricket in Zimbabwe. He, however, said conditions would be different which leaves the team with a big job in the hand. "But the boys are pretty confident. Every player knows what his job is and what is expected from him."

Jayasuriya, who didn't play in any of the previous three Tests in 1995-96, felt that the strength of his team lied in bowling. He said Vaas, Muralitharan, Wickremasinghe and Pushpakumara were experienced bowlers. He added that batting was equally good which makes his team an all-round squad.

On the crowd turn-out following Pakistan's dismal performance in Australia, Jayasuriya felt that if both the teams played exciting cricket in the first couple of games, there would be more spectators even in Tests.

"That is definitely one of the reasons but the other fact is whenever India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka play against each other, people come to see them. People love the way the three teams play and most of the time get their money's worth."

Whatmore said his team had no problems facing Shoaib Akhtar in the forthcoming series despite the fact that there is suspicion over his bowling action.

"As a matter of fact, we would like to play against the strongest possible Pakistan team because it would help us judge where we stand."

Jayasuriya, who missed the Asian Test Championship final against Pakistan in which Shoaib played, said he hasn't faced him yet "but I believe there is nothing wrong in his bowling action."

He, however, said his team would abide by the decisions of the International Cricket Council (ICC) and would not like to comment if there was procedural loopholes.

Shoaib was banned on Dec 30 but the decision was reversed on Jan 8 by ICC president Jaghomohan Dalmiya. Shoaib was allowed to play in the Australian tri-nation series because bouncers were called no-ball. However, he remained suspended from Test cricket.

Whatmore said the Sri Lankan board was very seriously handling the case of Kumara Dharmasena whose bowling action has also been questioned.

"The cricket board must have met in Colombo on Monday to discuss a new video that was prepared about his bowling action last week. Our match referee in the ICC, the umpiring coordinator and the national coaching director would have discussed the film before it is submitted to the ICC for a review," Whatmore said.

Whatmore observed that the decline in umpiring standard was being highlighted because of the modern day technology. "I have been saying this for years that there should be third country umpires at both ends."