COLOMBO – Losing your coach, captain and manager to ball tampering charges has the ability to destroy any team. Just ask Australia.
Nobody seems to have told Sri Lanka this though. Even though Dinesh Chandimal, Chandika Hathurusingha and Asanka Gurusinha were already ruled out of this on-going Test series, and will now also miss four of the five ODIs against South Africa after the ICC meted out its most severe punishment earlier this week since the demerit points system was introduced, the hosts have not missed a beat.
In fact, they have looked more assured, confident and together under Suranga Lakmal’s stand-in leadership, especially during the first Test in Galle when they completed a rout within two-and-half-days.
Veteran spinner Rangana Herath, though, doesn’t want to take anything away from the work Chandimal and Hathurusingha are still doing behind-the-scenes.
“True that we don’t have a captain or coach for the game, but if you see during nets, both Hatu (Hathurusingha) and Chandi (Chandimal) were there and preparation was good. Without them we cannot go that far. Only during the game they are not there, but they are behind us,” the 40-year-old said.
The hosts currently have their foot on Faf du Plessis’ team’s throat after a thumping 278-run victory in Galle. With the former world champions now ranked a lowly 6th on the Test table, Herath desperately wants to complete a series victory here in the capital, especially for the fact that Sri Lanka would gain six ranking points should they beat the No 2 team 2-0.
“Firstly, when you win the mentality is good. All players are contributing. Suranga Lakmal, Dilruwan Perera and Dimuth Karunaratne were our key players in Galle. I am sure we will go from strength to strength. It is very important that we win a series. They are the No 2 ranked team. We need to win and gain confidence and this is going to be a crucial game,” Herath said.
“At any cost we have to remember that they are a very dangerous side. They will bounce back I am sure. But we have a bit of different plan and I am sure they will also have different plans. Our preparations have been great.”
For all the talk about Herath and spin partners Dilruwan Perera and Lakshan Sandakan’s influence on the Galle Test – the trio claimed 17 of the South African wickets to fall – the wily campaigner still believes that without Dimuth Karunaratne’s the victory could not have been achieved.
“Dimuth’s hundred and fifty were remarkable. He set up the game and set a fine example. We have got to learn from him. Have a chat to him and find out what worked for him. Pretty pleased with the way Dimuth played,” he explained.