Chandi­mal ad­mits that pink ball poses a chal­lenge

Sunday Times (Sri Lanka) - - COMMENT - By Champika Fer­nando

In his third series as cap­tain, Di­nesh Chandi­mal will have the com­pli­ca­tion, not only of lead­ing a bat­tered Sri Lankan team, but also lead­ing them in the coun­try’s first day-night Test dur­ing the forth­com­ing United Arab Emi­rates tour.

The sec­ond and fi­nal Test be­tween Sri Lanka and Pak­istan will be played un­der lights in Dubai from Oc­to­ber 6-10 and skip­per Chandi­mal ad­mit­ted that daynight cricket poses a huge chal­lenge to his charges who have lit­tle ex­pe­ri­ence with the pink-ball.

“It’s go­ing to be a new chal­lenge, and big one, too,” he said. “We need just one good win to change it around and this tour could be the turn­ing point”.

Chandi­mal re­placed An­gelo Mathews as na­tional Test cap­tain when the lat­ter re­signed in June fol­low­ing a home ODI series de­feat to Zimbabwe (2-3).

Since De­cem­ber, Sri Lanka have lost seven of their nine Test matches, in­clud­ing two series white­washes to South Africa (3-0) and In­dia (3-0), and have slid into murky depths in in­ter­na­tional cricket.

The en­su­ing men­tal scars are ex­pected to re­main with the play­ers for a while and the added pres­sure of play­ing a day- night Test may hurt their chances of re­viv­ing the game.

“Like I said, it’s go­ing to be a new chal­lenge for us and a tough chal­lenge, as well," Chandi­mal re­it­er­ated. "But we will have five days of train­ing next week where we will be play­ing with the pink ball. Hope­fully, we’ll get a ses­sion or two un­der lights to get a hang of it."

Sri Lanka used the pink ball dur­ing the four- day su­per eight tour­na­ment last sea­son but that not played un­der lights. Most of the na­tional crick­eters were also un­avail­able due to com­mit­ments.

“We’ve played the last sea­son with the pink- ball," he said. "I could only play one match be­cause of my na­tional com­mit­ments. So I am not that fa­mil­iar with it but what I saw there was that the ball is a bit lighter which makes it swing ear­lier than the red-ball."

“It will be tough for the bats­men, ini­tially, and if we can get through the first 25 overs and I think when the ball is a lit­tle bit old, the bat­ting will not be that dif­fi­cult,” he con­cluded.

Sri Lankan bats­men look as good as any­one on pa­per but have strug­gled to con­struct long in­nings, largely contributing to dis­mal per­for­mances in re­cent months. Their bowlers have been no bet­ter.

Chandi­mal says the pink ball of­fers lit­tle sup­port for the spin­ners while even the seam­ers will have to bowl to a per­fect line and length.

“You will have to main­tain a per­fect line and length and that’s go­ing to be the chal­lenge for the seam bowlers as the ball will move through the air due to its light­ness more than the red-ball which we usu­ally play Test cricket with," he ex­plained. "So these are lit­tle things we’ll have to work on dur­ing the next few days." The 27-year-old cap­tain has a Test bat­ting av­er­age of 41.

The match was sched­uled on the re­quest of Pak­istan Cricket Board whose crick­eters recorded a close 54-run win in Pak­istan’s maiden day-night en­counter against West In­dies in Oc­to­ber last year at the same venue. It will be only the sixth time a Test match has ever fol­lowed this for­mat af­ter Aus­tralia and New Zealand first wore whites un­der the lights in Novem­ber 2015.

For mer skip­per An­gelo Mathews hasn’t played pink ball cricket yet and said he was ex­cited.

“Per­son­ally I am very much ex­cited about the chal­lenge. It’s go­ing to be a whole new ex­pe­ri­ence for us,” he said. “We will be hav­ing a very in­tense prepa­ra­tion dur­ing the next few days."

Like his suc­ces­sor, Mathews ad­mit­ted that Sri Lanka will be un­der pres­sure dur­ing the tour. Sri Lanka drew the Test series dur­ing their last tour to UAE. Af­ter the first match ended in a draw, Sri Lanka beat them in the sec­ond match in Dubai be­fore Pak­istan suc­cess­fully chased down 302 in­side two ses­sions to level the series in the third and fi­nal Test played at the Shar­jah cricket grounds.

“The pres­sure is al­ways there but it will be more this time," Mathews ex­plained. "We’ve been through a very bad patch but that doesn’t mean we are bad crick­eters. All we need is one good win."

Af­ter con­stantly fail­ing with the Red ball and then with the White balls, now the Lankan Test skip­per fears the 'Pink' which he feels is all men­tal, not phys­i­cal

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