Sri Lanka desperate to shrug off losing habit


Christchurch: Sri Lanka captain Angelo Mathews has demanded an immediate end to the losing habit that has infected his side in the lead up to Saturday’s World Cup opener against New Zealand in Christchurch.

The “fighting spirit” was not there he said Friday as he reviewed a disappointing build up to cricket’s premier ODI tournament.

Despite leading a side stacked with high performers, Mathews has seen his side crash to a 4-2 series defeat against New Zealand last month and then lose two World Cup warm-up games against South Africa and Zimbabwe.

They were performances far removed from previous Sri Lankan sides that won the 1996 World Cup and were runners up in the last two tournaments in 2007 and 2011.

“In the recent past, especially in New Zealand, we’ve found ways of losing games more than winning games and I think our late middle order haven’t produced good results for us,” he said.

“We had a couple of bad practice matches as well, but we’re not too concerned (about them) because we gave guys opportunities and we tried out a few things.”

Whether batting first or second against New Zealand, Sri Lanka made a flying start through stars such as Mahela Jayawardene, Kumar Sangakkara and Tillakaratne Dilshan but once they were removed the wickets fell cheaply.

Mathews believed the biggest lesson Sri Lanka have learned is they need to change their approach and not the players.

“It’s the fighting spirit that we’ve got to bring into it. When you lose a few games you tend to be a bit more down and you’ve got to fight hard,” he said.

“It’s going to be a fresh series for us, it’s going to be the start of the World Cup.

“We’ve put everything under the carpet and we’re just going to go out there and be positive.”

An added motivation to lift their game is to produce a fitting farewell to Sangakkara and Jaywardene, the 37-year-old batting kingpins who have indicated this World Cup is their last outing on the ODI stage.

“The amount of service they have rendered to our team has been invaluable. They’ve performed to the best of their ability and just want to win all the time so it will be a fitting farewell if we can do it for them.”

Sangakkara needs 12 more runs to overtake Australian Ricky Ponting as the second most prolific ODI batsman behind India’s master Sachin Tendulkar.

Jayawardene is fifth on the all-time list.

Sri Lanka have been buoyed by the return of Lasith Malinga, their strike bowler who has a history of tormenting New Zealand at the top of the innings and at the death.

He has been sidelined by an ankle injury for nearly six months but Mathews confirmed he would play on Saturday although the rest of the line up has not been settled.

“He’s fit to go,” he said of the player he considers the “x-factor” in the Sri Lanka team and if the toss goes their way he will be bowling late in the day with Mathews wanting to bat first to set a target on a pitch he believes is laden with runs.(AFP)