Victory can do wonders for a team’s mindset: restoring confidence, putting a spring in the players’ step. Particularly when it ends a run of nine straight defeats.
Sri Lanka’s 21-run win over Pakistan in the first Test in Abu Dhabi earlier this week ended a run that saw the islanders whitewashed across all three formats by India this summer and endure a humiliating 3-2 ODI series defeat to lowly Zimbabwe.
“We were in need of that result badly and it was achieved in no small way,” said Upul Tharanga, the Sri Lanka ODI and Twenty20 captain, in a telephone interview from Sri Lanka where he is preparing for the short format series taking place in the UAE following the conclusion of the Test series next week.
“Obviously the result was a huge relief for the players. But having said that, there is a lot of work ahead to take the momentum forward on all formats of the game.”
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Following their dismal form before arriving in the capital many had written off Sri Lanka’s chances against a side who had never lost a “home” series on UAE soil. But Tharanaga said his compatriots will be looking to wrap up the series when play gets under way in the second and final Test at Dubai International Stadium on Friday.
“We are now looking forward to the series against Pakistan,” he said. “Yes, there was so much pressure on everyone, players and the management. I think the confidence is back in the camp and hopefully we can build on what we have achieved from the first game against Pakistan.”
Tharanga is on a six-month break from Test cricket to concentrate on the shorter formats.
“Sometimes you need that break from one format of the game to get your focus back,” he said.
“That’s not to say I’m out of Test cricket. This is not unusual in any sport. We need to deal with pressure in every game but to take time out and reflect on the past performances and to look ahead for the new challenges is a good thing.”
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Victory in Abu Dhabi was a boon for the young captaincy of Dinesh Chandimal, who took over from Angelo Mathews in July, scoring his first century as the side’s new leader in Sri Lanka's first innings in Abu Dhabi.
Tharanga, 32, and Chandimal, 27, share a lot in common. Both are from Ambalangoda, a coastal city more than 100 kilometres south of Colombo and attended the same Dharmasoka College. They are also clubmates for Nondescript Cricket Club in Colombo.
Sri Lanka are yet to name their squads for the five ODIs and three T20 matches, the final one of which is slated to take place in Lahore on October 29, but Chandimal now looks certain to regain his place in both.
On the issue of two different captains, Tharanga said: “Dinesh leading the Test team and me in the shorter formats is not an issue. In fact, who captains the side has never been an issue for any of us. The players have left it for the management to decide.”
Beyond the Pakistan series, Tharanga is looking ahead to the 2019 World Cup in England.
“Our objective is to prepare from now on and have the right squad for the World Cup,” he said.
“We have less than two years to have everything in place before the World Cup. Sri Lanka has an outstanding record too, winning it in 1996 and runner-up in 2007 and 2011. We want to be around there in England in 2019.”