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The Lions are now roaring collectively

The biggest factor for India is obviously the return of Sachin Tendulkar, writes Tom Moody
  • Marvan Atapattu is an exceptional leader
  • Turmoil in Indian cricket is of no relevance to us
  • Only time will tell whether captaincy will affect Dravid's game
  • Series would be crucial for Tharanga, Samaraweera, Lokuhettige and Maharoof

    Notwithstanding the loss against the Mumbai Cricket Association President's XI in our warm-up game in Mumbai, we will take several positives from that match into the opening one-dayer against India at Nagpur.

    We, as a team, have taken stock of our performance in Mumbai, reviewed the areas that needed improvement and come up with solutions. And I think we are fortunate that we have had the chance to do so after a warm-up game rather than after three or four international matches.

    All said and done, it is extremely difficult for a player to generate the same amount of intensity for a practice match compared to an international encounter. Try as you might, the adrenalin rush just isn't the same.

    A practice match is more of an arena for the individual, whether batsman or bowler, to polish his skills, but for an international match, the same bunch of individuals will operate as a close-knit team and I fully expect that to happen with Sri Lanka at Nagpur.

    Teamwork is one area in which we have improved vastly over the last few years, owing to a combination of factors. While Marvan Atapattu has provided excellent leadership — based on my short stint with the team I think he is an exceptional leader of men — the skills and experience of the likes of Sanath Jayasuriya, Chaminda Vaas, Muttiah Muralitharan and Mahela Jayawardene have complemented his efforts.

    The Sri Lankan team of today is unlikely to reflect on the drawn series of 1998, or on the fact that of the last 11 Tests that it has played in India, it has won just one. What happened eight years ago is irrelevant and we will focus only on the here and now — no dwelling on the past — just as we know that our victory over India in the IndianOil Cup is also not relevant.

    Different proposition

    Playing India on home soil is a completely different proposition, as every team knows. Challenging and tough are two words that spring to mind easily in the circumstances.

    However, our team will be bolstered by the inclusion of Vaas and Murali, who were rested from the warm-up game considering their workloads.

    As for the Indian squad, the biggest factor is obviously the return of Sachin Tendulkar. Not only will it influence the Indian players, I am sure we will see an upsurge in terms of spectator interest, with the entire nation watching his every move, just as we saw when Murali came back to international cricket after nearly a year away from the game.

    India also has a new captain at the helm who has won worldwide respect as a player, though it is too early to say how captaincy will affect his game. We know the days ahead won't be easy and are concentrating hard on our gameplan. Despite what many people think, the turmoil that Indian cricket has been in of late is of no relevance to us, because we are interested solely about what happens on the field. Like all cricket-playing nations, we are looking ahead to the 2007 World Cup and the series against India is crucial for our young players like Upul Tharanga, Thilan Samaraweera, Dilhara Lokuhettige and Farveez Maharoof. — (Gameplan)

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