On Wednesday, ahead of his first ODI series as Sri Lanka coach Mickey Arthur spoke about players being handed down well-defined roles within the team. On Friday, on the eve of the first one-dayer against West Indies, he went into a little more detail about what those roles were.
Unsurprisingly, the two wristspinners in the squad – legspinner Wanindu Hasaranga and left-arm wristspinner Lakshan Sandakan – will be expected to make breakthroughs through the middle overs. Sri Lanka were one of the few teams without a reliable wristspinner during last year’s ODI World Cup. With a T20 World Cup later this year, the team is looking to fill that void.
“The key to the wristspiners, and to playing both of them together, is genuine wicket-taking options for us through the middle,” Arthur said. “That is the key, and that’s what wins you white-ball cricket games now. We want to play that brand of cricket. We are looking to attack and looking to take wickets. I think that’s the future for this team. I think in terms of our preparation, that’s been the message. The message has been around attacking. We don’t want to play defensive cricket anymore. That will be reflected in our selection. If the two wristspinners can do the job for us tomorrow, that will be fantastic, because they will take wickets.
“Wanindu is a fantastic cricketer. The way he bowls – the control of his length has been amazing. I’ve really marveled at watching him go about his business. That, coupled with his batting ability, and his fielding, he’s making a real name for himself. Sandakan, obviously, has been around the system a lot longer.”
On the batting front, Sri Lanka have a clear idea who their top six is. Each of those players has a specific job.
“The thing about our batting is that there is a license at the top of the order,” Arthur said. “You’ve got Kusal Perera and Avishka Fernando at the top of the order – dynamic. Kusal Perera will bat three. Avishka will open with Dimuth Karunaratne. They will have a licence to get us away in that Powerplay period. And 4, 5, 6 is Kusal Mendis, Angelo Mathews and Dhananjaya de Silva. Those are the guys who we want to control those overs 11-40. And then hopefully, we’ll have the likes of one of them, a Thisara Perera and a Wanindu, to finish it. If we script the perfect game, that’s how it would work out. We know it doesn’t always happen.”
Where fitness and fielding have been major areas of concern for Sri Lanka over the past two years, Arthur also suggested there has been substantial improvement on both fronts.
“I was watching us go through our fielding yesterday. Our fielding has improved massively. That’s testimony to the players and their attitudes. They’ve bought into where we want to go. And the coaching from Shane McDermott around that has been fantastic. We’ve been big on the split step. We’ve been big on trigger movements on the field, just to trigger the guys into action. To see the whole field moving is a massive improvement on where we were when we went to India with that T20 side [in January].
“If you are fitter you can field better and move better. Your ability and speed to get to the ball is much better.”