Terror-hit Sri Lanka set for emotional return
Sri Lanka's cricketers will play together for the first time since surviving a horrific terror attack in March when they take part in the World Twenty20 tournament in England.cricket Updated: May 29, 2009 13:22 IST
Sri Lanka's cricketers will play together for the first time since surviving a horrific terror attack in March when they take part in the World Twenty20 tournament in England.
The June 5-21 event will be the Islanders' first official tournament since armed militants in the Pakistani city of Lahore attacked the team on March 3 while on their way to resume a Test match.
Seven Sri Lankan cricketers, including newly appointed captain Kumar Sangakkara, and an assistant coach were injured in the attack, which left eight Pakistanis dead.
A few top stars took part in the Indian Premier League in South Africa, but the Twenty20 Worlds gives the Sri Lankan team a chance to shine again at the highest level.
"It has not been easy for us to deal with the events of Lahore," said Sangakkara, who took over as captain after good friend Mahela Jayawardene resigned to concentrate on his batting.
"The memories of what happened will last a long time, but with cricket comes a sense of normalcy and that old feeling of going out and doing your job.
"The IPL was great because we got a chance to mix with the cricket fraternity. Now we are prepared for the Twenty20 Worlds."
Sangakkara knows his team needs to focus fully on the game -- and find ways to beat Australia -- if they are to do well in the tournament.
The Sri Lankans lost to Australia in the final of the 50-overs-a side World Cup in 2007 and, a few months later, were denied a semi-final place by the same opponents in the inaugural Twenty20 Worlds.
Needing a win to move into the last four, Sri Lanka were bundled out for 101 by the fired-up Australians in a key Super Eights match in Cape Town and were trounced by 10 wickets.
This year, Sri Lanka has been drawn alongside Australia and the West Indies in the toughest preliminary group, which sends two teams into the Super Eights.
"Ours is the only group of the four with three Test sides," said Sangakkara. "We will have to play consistently well to progress, but the boys are raring to begin the challenge."
Sri Lanka's 8-5 winning record against all comers in the unpredictable T20 format indicates they will be one of the most formidable sides in the 12-nation tournament.
A supremely fit Sanath Jayasuriya, who turns 40 in June, proved during his IPL stint with the Mumbai Indians that age is no barrier when it comes to smashing sixes and fours.
The left-hander is expected to fire at the top of a formidable batting order that includes the under-rated but prolific Tillakaratne Dilshan, Jayawardene and Sangakkara himself.
Cricket's leading wicket-taker Muttiah Muralitharan and mystery man Ajantha Mendis comprise the spin attack, but sling-arm fast bowler Lasith Malinga's return from a knee injury has boosted the Sri Lankan attack.
Malinga, who has not played a major international tournament since the 2007 World Cup in the Caribbean, showed during the IPL he was fully fit by bowling toe-crushing yorkers at will.
Sri Lanka meet Australia in their opening game in Nottingham on June 8, before playing the West Indies on June 10 at the same venue.