Sri Lanka national cricket team for the ICC Champions Trophy 2017 will depart to England on Thursday morning carrying the hopes of 20 million people.
The Sri Lankan team left for England Thursday morning to participate in an eight day residential training camp in Kent. After the camp, the Sri Lankans will play two privately arranged warm-up games against Scotland before taking on Australia and New Zealand in two more warm-up games. Their campaign in Champions Trophy gets underway on June 3 against South Africa at The Oval.
Mathews felt the wrist spin of Sandakan could unsettle a few teams as there aren’t too many bowlers of his kind in international cricket. The 25-year-old spinner has only played six One-Day Internationals and although he has not done anything remarkable, he played a pivotal role in his debut series as Sri Lanka whitewashed Australia 3-0 in a Test series last year.
Sri Lanka took a gamble by picking Sandakan ahead of veteran all-rounder Dilruwan Perera, but Mathews was confident that Sandakan – nicknamed China – will have an impact in the series.
“Lakshan Sandakan is going to be our key. He is a bit of a mystery bowler and lot of teams haven’t seen him. He can be a big threat during this tournament,” Mathews said.
Sri Lanka have had a torrid time in recent months and have slipped to number six in ODI rankings. They were whitewashed 0-3 in Tests and 0-5 in ODIs in South Africa before suffering a first ever Test defeat to Bangladesh. With the 2019 World Cup two years away, Mathews felt that the Champions Trophy gave all teams an opportunity to assess their standard.
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“It’s an opportunity for us to assess where we are. It’s a kind of a mini World Cup. Every team is determined and focused coming into this tournament. The object of everyone is to try and win it,” Mathews remarked.
Mathews has not played any international cricket since January when he was forced to return home in the middle of the South African tour due to injury. “I am very much excited to get back to things. Even though I was at the IPL, the trainers and physios were in touch with me getting me to do certain amount of work. I joined the team for the residential camp in Kandy last week and I am looking forward to contribute in all three departments,” Mathews committed.
Sri Lanka’s preparation for the competition has been intense with residential camps in both Sri Lanka and England plus two additional warm-up games to get used to conditions.
“I am very pleased with the arrangements that have been put in place,” Matthews said. “The board has allowed us to carry two additional players as well in Dilruwan Perera and Danushka Gunatilleke, just in case something happens. We have four warm-up games to help us to get used to the conditions. That allows us to sort out our combination for the competition.”
Mathews also acknowledged he is looking forward to meet his first captain Kumar Sangakkara, who has been in prolific form for Surrey. “Two of our first round games will be at The Oval and I am looking forward to meet Sanga and pick his mind on what to expect. Our coach Graham Ford also has spent lot of time at The Oval as Surrey’s coach. They can contribute a lot for the team.”