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India is a force in world cricket no matter where they play: Mathews

Source: PTI
June 07, 2017 20:27 IST
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'It's very hard to beat them unless we are on top of our game.'

IMAGE: Sri Lanka's Upul Tharanga, left, and Thisara Perera during a training session. Photograph: Peter Cziborra/Reuters

Sri Lanka captain Angelo Mathews conceded that it will be 'very hard to beat India' in the ICC Champions Trophy Group B match in London, on Thursday.

After losing by 96 runs to South Africa in their first match, Sri Lanka have been plagued by injuries with skipper Mathews making a comeback after injury but still not fit enough to bowl and senior batsman Chamara Kapugedara struggling with a knee injury.

To make matters worse, Upul Tharanga, who was the stand-in captain against South Africa, has been suspended for two games due to slow over-rate.

"As you know, India is a force in world cricket no matter where they play, whether it’s at home or away. They have played fantastic cricket especially in the last couple of years.

"It's very hard to beat them unless we are on top of our game. We will all have to pull our socks up and give a great performance tomorrow," Mathews said on the eve of the game against India.

He is realistic about his inexperienced side's chances to win the Champions Trophy and that he believes takes away a lot of pressure from the youngsters.

"We are happy to walk in as the underdogs. I mean, no one really expects us to win the Championship which takes away a lot of pressure out of the guys," Mathews said.

But he agreed that this team needs to learn to deal with pressure.

"I mean, you have got to deal with the pressures. We always have pressures when we play as players. You have just got to deal with it and be as a team.

"I mean, yes, we have had so many greats and they have retired (Kumar Sangakkara, Mahela Jayawardene and Tillakaratne Dilshan). We are slowly rebuilding, but surely, we will come up with a good performance," the skipper said.

However, Mathews doesn't agree that the gulf between India and their Asian neighbours has increased.

"No, I don’t think so. Yes, India have done extremely well in the past couple years. If you look at our team, we have beaten the Australians, which was the number 1 team a few months back. We beat Australia in Australia. We beat South Africa in South Africa," the skipper said.

"So I don't think there's a massive difference. It's just that there will be phases when you struggle. There will be phases when you play well. So you can't really single out the best team."

IMAGE: Sri Lanka captain Angelo Mathews. Photograph: Peter Cziborra/Reuters

On Kapugedara’s injury, Mathews said that they are waiting for the MRI report.

"He just got injured at training, so we sent him for an MRI scan. We are waiting for the doctor's report. If need be, we might have to bring in a replacement, which is Danushka," he said.

He agreed that not being able to bowl will affect the balance of his side.

"It does upset the balance a little bit. If I could bowl my 10 overs, unfortunately, I mean, I am okay to play as a batsman but not as a bowler.

"So we have to think about it -- we have to come up with some other plans to try and cope with the Indian batting line-up. But yes, this is what we hae got, and we will definitely use the resources that we've got at the moment."

When asked if he would ask Kumar Sangakkara to make a comeback from retirement, he smiled and replied in jest: "I always asked him that!"

"Even a couple days ago, I was asking him can you come and play for us, you know, in this game? He has been in absolute (tremendous) form (for Surrey in English County cricket). He has been in form ever since he started playing, to be honest.

"Yes, he (Sangakkara) has had a dream career, and it's unfortunate that we don't have him anymore, but he is always willing to help us. He is always having chats with us on how we should play on these conditions, especially, it’s his home ground.

"And he has had a lot of chats to all the younger players, including myself," added Mathews.

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