“Suranga Lakmal is doubtful for the first Test” – Dimuth Karunaratne

ICC World Test Championship

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Sri Lanka Test skipper Dimuth Karunaratne participated in a virtual press conference from Centurion organized by Sri Lanka Cricket today (24). Here’re a few extracts from that discussion.

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Q: How excited are you with the pace options you have in the squad?

A: Our bowling attack is stronger than the last time we visited South Africa for a Test Series in 2019. We didn’t have Lahiru Kumara and Dushmantha Chameera in 2019 and we are lucky to have them with us this time.

If we didn’t have a seam attack to match their attack, they normally exploit the conditions to suit the seam attack and we feel we have got that covered this time. I think the two teams cannot be separated skill-wise and both teams have a 50-50 chance to win the series.

Unfortunately, Suranga Lakmal had discomfort in his hamstring during the practice sessions yesterday (23) and he may be doubtful for the first Test match. We will assess his condition and decide whether he will be available for the boxing day Test match.

Q: How has the Bio-Bubble affected the players?

A: It has affected the players very much but we have to adhere to these restrictions. One good thing is because of the Bio-Bubble, the players are spending more time as a team.

However, it takes a toll mentally when you are spending this much time in a bio-bubble.

Q: Who will replace Angelo Mathews and Oshada Fernando in the playing XI?

A: Since Oshada Fernando is not available for the first Test, we are planning to use either Lahiru Thirimanne or Kusal Perera at the top. Perera has proven his value in these conditions with his aggressive stroke play and he may get an opportunity to open on the 26th.

Mathews’ absence is a huge miss but we are thinking of replacing him with Wanindu Hasaranga or Dasun Shanaka who will give us an extra bowling option in the playing XI.

Q: Do you feel extra pressure since you haven’t played any competitive cricket since March 2020?

A: I couldn’t play the first-class season due to an injury and didn’t play LPL as well. We couldn’t play the scheduled practice match too. Yes, it is a challenge to get back to international cricket after a long time, but we have prepared well and eager to do my best for the team.

Win or lose, we have to play competitive cricket against South Africa and I feel the batsmen will have to bear the heavy workload if we are to succeed in these conditions.

Q: Have the playing XI finalized for the boxing day Test match?

A: We have shortlisted 13 players for the first Test match and will decide the final XI tomorrow (25th) after inspecting the conditions. 

As spinners, Lasith Embuldeniya and Wanindu Hasaranga are included in that 13-player list.

Q: South African squad is relatively an inexperienced side. Have you analyzed those players?

A: I think playing XI will be almost the same as 2019 for South Africa except for the inclusion of Anrich Nortje in place of Kagiso Rabada. So, it will be almost the same South African outfit we faced last year.

But there are close to 7 new faces in the South African squad and all of them have been selected after performing well in their 4-day First Class season.  Even the national players have played a limited-overs series against a strong England team. 

We have analysed the strengths and weaknesses of all these players and planned accordingly.

Q: How valuable is it to have Mickey Arthur as the head coach on South African conditions? 

A: We are lucky to have Mickey (Arthur) with us as he knows these conditions very well. He has coached the South African team and recently traveled to South Africa with the Pakistan team as their head coach as well. 

No player from our squad has ever played in Centurion so, it is a privilege to have Mickey’s insights on these conditions.

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