Friday, 19 May 2017 01:00

It’s wonderful to start the tournament as underdogs - Ford

Sri Lanka captain Angelo Mathews takes a selfie of his team mates before their departure to England today

for the Champions trophy. AFP pix by Lakruwan Wanniarachchi
Lankan cricketers leave for Champions Trophy with great expectations:
Head coach Graham Ford said despite to all what has been said about preparations and winning the tournament he was comfortable for Sri Lanka to go into the ICC Champions Trophy as underdogs.

“You’ve got to be realistic and accept that we go to this tournament as underdogs. Sometimes that’s a wonderful place to be,” said Ford at a media conference held at Movenpick Hotel in Colpetty yesterday where the Sri Lanka team was present for an official photograph and media conference.

“If you look at the records of some of the other teams that we’ll come up against – they certainly have more impressive records than we have. We have a young side, with a lot of players who have made a lot of progress over the last year or so.

“Also because of our slightly up and down year, we’ve been able to really identify areas that we need to improve on – our weak areas. I know that the lads are very determined to improve on those areas,” he said.

Sri Lanka are drawn in Group B with South Africa, India and Pakistan – all three teams against whom they have not fared well in recent times.

“For the teams that we’re going to play against have had successful years, the danger for them is they can drop their guard a little bit,” observed Ford. “They can think everything is going swimmingly well, and not focus on those areas they need to improve on. For me, I think we’re in quite a good position. Whilst it’s going to be a massive challenge going up against some wonderful cricketers, I’m very confident that we have the players that can cause some upsets and play exciting cricket.

“I certainly think the fans are going to have a lot of enjoyment out of it, and I hope our players are going to get some enjoyment out of it. At the same time, we all realise that it is a huge, huge event for us and a huge challenge,” he said.

Ford lauds players

Ford commended the players the way they have prepared themselves for the tournament.

“They have had quite a tough time of it over the last few weeks or so. Some of them have actually been playing flat out in all formats of the game since September when we went to Zimbabwe,” said Ford.

“Some have had a very hectic time, but at no stage did they take their foot off the pedal. It’s great to see the way they’ve worked. One thing I’m very proud of, and one reason I’m involved in Sri Lankan cricket is the fighting spirit that our players show. It is the most impressive in world cricket.”

Ford admitted preparing the Lankan team for the Champions trophy was ‘a big ask’.

“Recent results will tell you that it is a big ask. But the talent these guys have shown, every single member is a match winner in his own right,” said Ford.

“They’ve worked extremely hard and they’re all trying to improve their cricket. With us being a team that’s improving all the time, we’ve certainly got a chance of upsetting one of these other nations. It is a huge challenge, but one that we’re looking forward to.”

One advantage Sri Lanka has with Ford being their head coach is that he is quite familiar with the London Oval where Sri Lanka play their first two matches of the Champions trophy against South Africa (on June 3) and India (on June 8). Ford was coach of Surrey (home of the Oval) for two seasons since 2014 before being reappointed Sri Lanka coach in 2016.

“Fortunately we play two of our home games at the Oval, which I know very well. From what I’ve seen, it’s been a particularly dry start to the summer, and the scores have been really high. That should suit us,” said Ford.

“I’m not actually sure we want it to spin much, because Imran Thahir is a real weapon for South Africa and Ravichandran Ashwin and the Indian spinners will be a factor. We’re looking for good cricket wickets – good one-day pitches,” he said.

“If you look at the scores of the one-day competition on now in England, they have been really high. Hopefully those are the kinds of pitches that we can perform well on. You never know with the weather – a wet spell could come in. For now it’s all looking really promising.”

‘Fielding is our strength’

When questioned of the team’s strength Ford wryly said, “I would say fielding, but you might all start laughing. We’ve certainly done a lot of our fielding, so hopefully that’s going to stand up well.

“In one day cricket we have some exceptional stroke-makers and some really talented batsmen, and that’s why if the batting pitches are good, we can really put bowling attacks under pressure. Perhaps with some of our younger players who are still learning to construct innings, the challenge is to make sure we’re in a position to put attacks under a lot of pressure at the end.

“If you do construct an innings well, we have some of the best ball strikers in world cricket. They can really take a bowling attack down.

“Bowling wise if we can get the old guard of (Lasith) Malinga and (Nuwan) Kulasekara firing with their skills at the end of the innings, that probably takes 20-25 runs off the opposition score as well. It’s a combination of finishing the innings off really well with the ball, and of course setting ourselves up well with the bat,” he said.(Daily News)

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