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The best take on mercurial Lankans

The first ball of the Champions Trophy is set to be bowled and not one player has taken a crack at any of the opposition in a column or interview, reports Anand Vasu.

cricket Updated: Sep 22, 2009 02:27 IST
Anand Vasu

The first ball of the Champions Trophy is set to be bowled and not one player has taken a crack at any of the opposition in a column or interview.

Perhaps this stems from the knowledge that there are no clear favourites and that all teams, barring the depleted West Indies, have a fair chance of making the semifinals.

On Tuesday, when South Africa take on Sri Lanka, early indications could emerge on just how well primed the hosts are to take advantage of their familiarity with conditions. South Africa have fought hard for the No. 1 ranking in ODIs and skipper Graeme Smith was not shy to say so.

“We’ve worked hard for it, it is a privilege,” said Smith on the eve of the first game. South Africa will be without the
services of Herschelle Gibbs, who has sprained an intercostal muscle during a practice match against West Indies last Friday at Potchefstroom.

When asked whether the three month break had left his team rusty or refreshed, Smith would only say: “We'll wait and see if the break is a good thing or not.”

Smith's opposite number Kumar Sangakkara leads one of the form teams of the tournament.

With Tillakaratne Dilshan providing serious firepower at the top of the order, the Sri Lankans have grown into a formidable one-day team.

Sangakkara was quick to dismiss suggestions that their indifferent performance in practice matches was a worry.

“Our record in warm-up games is pretty abysmal but we seem to pick ourselves up for the important games,” he said.

“South Africa are playing at home and are the top side in the world, so all the pressure will be on them.”

Both Smith and Sangakkara acknowledged that there was a lot riding on this tournament. “The true test for one-day cricket is in events like these — the appeal of the spectators, how much of a show the players put up and how much money television networks are going to gain,” said Sangakkara.

Smith, for his part, drew attention to the role the ICC have played.

“The ICC have put a lot of effort into this tournament, you can feel it and you can see it. Ultimately, it's how the cricket's played that is going to define if the tournament is a success or not.”