Home team desperate to avoid cricket Test series whitewash against India amid troubles on and off pitch.
Dinesh Chandimal hopes to bring smile back on Sri Lanka teammates' faces with consolation win
Hosts Sri Lanka are flirting with a series whitewash in the third Test against India, starting on Saturday, as they struggle with problems on and off the pitch which have thrown the team into turbulence.
A series of poor results, the early departure of coach Graham Ford and accusations against players and the country’s cricket chief have made for a difficult few months for the 1996 world champions.
Sri Lanka, lampooned by supporters and described as pot-bellied by their sports minister, can now ill-afford a third loss to top-ranked India in Pallekele, following crushing defeats in Galle and Colombo.
They have not been helped by a succession of injuries, capped by a back problem which has sidelined their No 1 bowler, Rangana Herath, for the final match.
Paceman Nuwan Pradeep, who could bowl only 17.4 overs in Colombo before pulling out with a hamstring injury, and all-rounder Asela Gunaratne are out of the series.
In light of the injury crisis, Sri Lanka Cricket (SLC) yesterday brought fast bowlers Dushmantha Chameera and Lahiru Gamage into the squad.
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Prior to this series, Sri Lanka failed to reach the semi-finals of the eight-team Champions Trophy in June and humiliatingly went down 3-2 in a home one-day international series to bottom-ranked Zimbabwe.
Former captain Arjuna Ranatunga, a government minister, has blamed Sri Lanka’s losses on SLC chief Thilanga Sumathipala and accused him of links to gambling, a claim Sumathipala denies.
There have also been reports of attempts to approach players for alleged match-fixing.
Captain Dinesh Chandimal, who missed the first Test with pneumonia, says a consolation victory over India would help put the smiles back on his players’ faces.
“If we can win even one match against a team like this [India], we will be able to really boost the mental state in the team. They are the No 1 team,” Chandimal said. “We need to pick up the positives and look forward to the next game.”
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There are no such problems for Virat Kohli, who became the only India captain to win two Test series in Sri Lanka.
Cheteshwar Pujara leads India’s run-scorers with two centuries and an average of more than 100 in three innings. The bowlers have also shone with spinners Ravindra Jadeja and Ravichandran Ashwin topping the wicket-takers’ chart with 13 and 11 respectively.
Despite their form, wicketkeeper Wriddhiman Saha insists India are taking nothing for granted.
“We haven’t thought about 3-0. Our process is match by match,” he said.