In a setback to the Sri Lankan team ahead of the ICC Cricket World Cup opener against South Africa, spinner Maheesh Theekshana has been ruled out from the first game as he is yet to recover from a hamstring injury, Sri Lankan coach Chris Silverwood said on Friday.
South Africa will take on Sri Lanka in their opening match of the World Cup in Delhi on Saturday.
Questioned whether all 15 players are available for selection, Silverwood said that Theekshana is still recovering from an injury that ruled him out of the Asia Cup final against India.
“No, at the moment, Theekshana is still recovering from a hamstring injury, so he won’t be available for this game. But we expect him to be available very soon. The rest of them are fine,” said Silverwood in a pre-match press conference.
Talking about captain Dasun Shanaka’s poor run with the bat, injuries and SL’s dismal performance in Asia Cup finals, the coach said that the team is prepared to the best of its abilities.
“Well, I mean, first and foremost, we’re prepared to the best of our abilities. We’ve been treated very well since we’ve been here at some great facilities from a team point of view, we know on our day we can go toe-to-toe with anybody,” said Silverwood.
“So, we prepare in exactly the same way all the time and injuries may happen and we have to deal with them the same as any other team does but we know given the right conditions, given the right day we can go toe-to-toe with anybody.”
“So, we will be going out there looking to win as always but we expect a very tough game tomorrow,” he added.
“We know there are some very tough games during this tournament and I think although everybody talks about the final in the Asia Cup, we played some very good cricket together and we got there despite people not thinking we could, so actually we know we can play some good cricket,” he concluded.
The coach said that it would be great if the team manages to deliver fine performances in the tournament, especially for a country which has had a tough time as of late.
“I think for a country it would be huge (Doing well in WC). I certainly sat in the dressing room and all the players in there feel the pride that comes out the country, they feel the support that comes from the great people that sit there supporting us.”
“And equally when we are walking around in Colombo, everybody wants to talk cricket. So, there is so much love for the game. And I think it would be huge if we could put a good show on here for them. And bring a smile back into the country’s faces with what we’re trying to do.”
On spin bowling all-rounder Dunith Wellalage, who will step in frontlines in absence of Wanindu Hasaranga, Silverwood said that the player is aware of his roles and no extra pressure will be on him.
“Well, to be honest, I mean, Dunith has shown us what a good young cricketer is and he has got an old head on young shoulders and I think he has played his cricket with maturity so far and I think he’s shown his worth with bat and ball and he has a good young fielder as well.”
“We are not going to put any more pressure on him than that, so for me he goes out and he plays his way. He knows his role in the team and he is very happy with that.”
“So, for me it is about not putting pressure on these guys, it is about taking pressure off them and I want him to go out and enjoy himself and show the rest of the world how good he is and if we can do that and give him that freedom, I think we’ll see the best of him,” concluded the coach.
On fitness update of Kusal Perera and skipper Shanaka, who had suffered small niggles earlier during the warm-up matches, Silverwood said that both are ready to go.
“Yeah, I mean as I said previously the two of them are ready to go.”
Silverwood also said that though T20 cricket has become a “different beast”, if all the teams play well in WC, it will go a long way in promoting ODIs even more.
“Yeah, I mean listen T20 is here to stay and It’s a beast of its own now and I don’t think you can do anything about that. It is attractive, it’s got all the razzmatazz, especially when you look at the IPL and the glamour that goes around that and equally the money that is available for the players to play in that.”
“And you are playing against the best people in the world all the time. So, for me I think that’s a great thing. I think if we can put a good show on, I mean not just Sri Lanka but all the teams here can put a good show on and actually show that this format of a game is great as well, I think it will go a long way to obviously promoting the game,” he concluded.
South Africa squad: Temba Bavuma (c), Gerald Coetzee, Quinton de Kock, Reeza Hendricks, Marco Jansen, Heinrich Klaasen, Keshav Maharaj, Aiden Markram, David Miller, Lungi Ngidi, Andile Phehlukwayo, Kagiso Rabada, Tabraiz Shamsi, Rassie van der Dussen, Lizaad Williams.
Sri Lanka Squad: Dasun Shanaka (c), Kusal Mendis (vc), Kusal Perera, Pathum Nissanka, Lahiru Kumara, Dimuth Karunaratne, Sadeera Samarawickrama, Charith Asalanka, Dhananjaya de Silva, Maheesh Theekshana, Dunith Wellalage, Kasun Rajitha, Matheesha Pathirana, Dilshan Madushanka, Dushan Hemantha Travelling reserve: Chamika Karunaratne. (ANI)