Lasith Malinga, the Sri Lanka one-day international captain, urged his side to “stand up and show character” in their ODI series against New Zealand.
The three-match series, which begins in Mount Maunganui on Thursday, 3 January, is a chance for both sides to firm up their line-ups ahead of the ICC Men’s Cricket World Cup 2019 in England later this year.
Sri Lanka, who are ranked eighth on the MRF Tyres ICC ODI Team Rankings, have struggled in the format in recent times, and with the wily Malinga taking over from Dinesh Chandimal at the helm recently, they are hoping for a change in fortunes. Malinga wanted a quick response from his side.
“Now is not the time to rebuild. More than three years have gone since the great players have retired. The next World Cup is this year,” he said on Wednesday. “Now we have to find who is the best in Sri Lankan cricket.
“The last three or four years we’ve struggled for consistency but a lot of the young players are getting good opportunities. Now is the time to stand up and show our character.”
Malinga, 35, who has never won a World Cup although he played the finals in 2007 and 2011, urged his team to make the most of the practice of playing in conditions he didn’t think were too different from what they could expect in England.
“We have another eight matches before the World Cup. These are very similar conditions to what we will face during the World Cup also. So it’s important to get together and become familiar with the conditions,” he said.
Against New Zealand, a good start – both in the first 10 overs of the match and the series itself – was vital, he added: “The last couple of series we’ve performed well at the end of the tournament. What people have to understand is that we have to perform well when the series starts.”
The home side, meanwhile, was happy to welcome back the big-hitting Martin Guptill and Colin Munro at the top of the order. Guptill, the highest scorer in the previous edition of the World Cup, has been sidelined with injury.
“Both are very positive players,” said Kane Williamson, talking about the duo, “and different players as well in terms of areas they score in and how they took to attack. So that is a big part of our side.”