COLOMBO –– West Indies will look to Sir Garfield Sobers for inspiration as they aim for a series-saving victory against Sri Lanka in the second Test starting in Colombo later tonight.
Sobers, widely regarded as the greatest all-rounder ever to have played the game, is in Colombo to watch the second and final Test at the P Sara Oval.
Sri Lanka has not been a happy hunting ground for West Indies since they played their first official Test on the island in 1993. They are yet to win a Test in Sri Lanka in ten attempts, and suffered an innings defeat in the first Test in Galle last week, where Rangana Herath starred with a match-haul of ten wickets.
Now, West Indies are only above Bangladesh in the ICC Test rankings, while Sri Lanka are one rung above it in seventh place.
Sri Lanka are going through a rebuilding phase after the recent retirements of Kumar Sangakkara and Mahela Jayawardene. But they were still far too strong in Galle for West Indies, which suffered due to sloppy fielding as well as brittle batting.
Responding to Sri Lanka’s massive first-innings total of 484 all out, West Indies twice suffered batting collapses to crash for 251 in their first innings and then 227 in the second innings after following on.
While West Indies are expected to be unchanged, Jason Holder, the captain, acknowledged that his batsmen needed to show more application.
“At this present time, we need to knock it down, we need to take it slower and slow down the game as much as possible –– simplify it as much as possible, and make it easy for us,” said Holder. “I have full confidence in the guys. I just told them: ‘Don’t get dejected, it’s not the end of the world. We have another Test match to make amends and come back stronger’. We will push for that one-all draw.”
Like Sobers, Holder hails from Barbados and is looking to put a smile on the face of a man whom he has described as “one of the greatest to play the game”.
“I personally saw Garfield Sobers yesterday in the hotel lobby. It was inspiring to see him come all this way just to watch the series. I’m sure most of the guys know of his presence and know that he’s here. I hope we can go ahead in this Test match and win it for him.”
Holder explained that another crucial aspect would be the way his batsmen improved their approach to Herath.
“I think we need to be a little more patient when we’re batting him, and just be a little more positive and decisive. Once we do that in the second Test, we will be a lot better off.”
Among those who did not spend time at the crease was Marlon Samuels, who collected 11 and a first-ball duck from his two innings in Galle. Samuels was also reported for a suspect action after the Test. Holder said Samuels’ role as a top order batsman who bowls offspin does not change for this Test, and backed him to come good with the bat. All reported bowlers can bowl in internationals until their action is found to be illegal.
“Marlon’s just had a bad game – that’s Test cricket,” Holder said. “What’s important is for Marlon to come back stronger. He’s one of the guys who digs deep when his back is against the wall. I’m not saying that his back is against the wall now, but he obviously got two low scores in the last Test match. He’s quite eager to get in this second Test match and get a score for the team.”
In contrast, Angelo Mathews, Holder’s opposite number, is wary of dwelling on the past and spent the build-up to the match speaking of his satisfaction at his team’s response to the recent retirements.
He was particularly delighted with the performances of Dinesh Chandimal and Dimuth Karunaratne, who both scored hundreds in Galle.
“We can’t keep talking of the past all the time,” he said. “After Sangakkara and Mahela left the team, we needed those guys to stand up and take the responsibility. I’m glad that they did it.”
The main question for Sri Lanka’s selectors will be whether to keep faith with Tharindu Kaushal, the offspinner who only took one wicket in Galle. The experienced Dilruwan Perera would be a like-for-like replacement.
Lahiru Thirimanne is also vulnerable after a run of low scores, with Kusal Mendis, the uncapped 20-year-old wicketkeeper-batsman, waiting in the wings.
Sri Lanka: Angelo Mathews (capt), Lahiru Thirimanne, Dimuth Karunaratne, Kaushal Silva, Dinesh Chandimal, Rangana Herath, Dhammika Prasad, Kusal Perera (wk), Dushmantha Chameera, Nuwan Pradeep, Tharindu Kaushal, Suranga Lakmal, Dilruwan Perera, Milinda Siriwardena, Kusal Mendis.
West Indies: Jason Holder (capt), Kraigg Brathwaite, Jermaine Blackwood, Carlos Brathwaite, Devendra Bishoo, Darren Bravo, Rajendra Chandrika, Shane Dowrich, Shannon Gabriel, Shai Hope, Denesh Ramdin (wk), Kemar Roach, Marlon Samuels, Jerome Taylor, Jomel Warrican.