Tom Moody and Mahela Jayawardene, the Sri Lankan coach and captain, believe that Muthiah Muralitharan's indifferent showing in the recently concluded one-day series will have no bearing on his performance in the Test series, due to begin on March 26 at the Sinhalese Cricket Club in Colombo.
Muralitharan, Sri Lanka's most successful bolwer, went wicketless in the first two matches, before capturing 3 for 58 in the third match. Sri Lanka's 2-0 loss to Pakistan, left them in the seventh spot in ICC ODI table.
But Moody backed Muralitharan to come good in the Tests. "He is a great bowler with a wonderful record behind him," Moody was quoted as saying in The Daily News. "He himself is keyed up for the Tests, which I think will be very different from the one-dayers. Murali remains our key bowler."
Jayawardene too believed that Muralitharan would be a different bowler in the Tests. "In the first two games he didn't take wickets but they also didn't score too many runs off him," he said after the third ODI loss in Colombo. "Today they tried to take runs off him and he took three wickets, he is that sort of a bowler who is always ready for a challenge with the batsmen."
"It should be a close and exciting series and we all know that Pakistan is a very talented side with a lot of depth," Moody said. "They have done very well in the last one year or more. But we have also been doing well at the Test level. It should be an interesting series."
He added that the failure of Sri Lanka's batting, especially the inability of the middle order to capitalise on good starts, was a huge disappointment in the series. "I am satisfied with the performances of our bowlers and our fielding has been up there. We have played on two different types of pitches in this series and I thought our bowlers adjusted very well and the fielders worked hard as usual," he said. "But the batting has been inconsistent and this is an area we are working on."
On the regular shuffling of openers, Moody said that it was part of one-day cricket's routine to test out a team's options and that it was done to develop a batsman's abilities. He took the example of Chamara Kapugedera, the 19-year-old batsman who top-scored with his maiden fifty in the third match. "We have tried out Chamara Kapugedera as an opener in the last two games as he showed a lot of promise in Australia but didn't get an opportunity to bat higher in the order," he said. "In today's game I think he showed well the potential he possesses and the fact that he is a fine striker of the ball."
Sri Lanka's loss to Pakistan has pushed them out of the top six positions in the second round of this year's Champions Trophy. Jayawardene, however, said he looked at it as nothing but an extra game. "In the past also we have had a qualifying knockout format in the Champions Trophy," he said "We look at it as having to play an extra game. I think the teams from seven to 10 play one game to decide the qualifiers."