Colombo: Sri Lanka skipper Angelo Mathews accepted that it will take time for someone to get into the boots of retiring legend Kumar Sangakkara but left-hander Upul Tharanga is someone they would be banking on to do the job as they take on India in the third Test starting on Wednesday. (Kumar Sangakkara Irreplaceable for Sri Lanka: Jayasuriya)
“After Sangakkara’s retirement, the rest of us that are left have not played too many Tests. It will take a long time to fill the gap that he has left. But I think the team we have now can do that,” Mathews sounded hopeful at the pre-match media conference here on Thursday. (Kumar Sangakkara Not Sri Lanka’s Most Influential Cricketer, Its Arjuna Ranatunga: Muralitharan)
Asked about Sangakkara’s possible replacement, Mathews named Upul Tharanga. The left-hander’s last Test was against Pakistan in Pallekele in July 2015 and was not selected for the first two Tests. (Virat Kohli’s Resurgent India Aim for Series Win)
“It has to be Tharanga definitely. In the last match, he hit 46 and 48. He went out only because Sangakkara came in. We’re trying to find a good batting order. We don’t have a set batting order yet,” the skipper said.
Off-spinner Tharindu Kaushal is a doubtful starter after sustaining a hand injury in the second Test but a good news for the home team is that pacer Nuwan Pradeep is fit again after missing the second Test.
Another likely change could be Kusal Janith Perera coming in place of Jehan Mubarak. Perera could keep wickets, thus paving the way for Dinesh Chandimal to bat up the order.
Asked if it is the perfect time to play Perera, Mathews did not give a direct answer but dropped enough hints that the talented youngster might get a look in.
“You can’t really find a perfect time to bring a player into the team. Whenever he gets the opportunity, I’m pretty sure that he will come good. He is also a young exciting player. We are not afraid to take chances with that kind of player. Let us see if he plays.”
Mathews admitted that the third Test will be a crunch match for the hosts.
“It is going to be a very important game. It’s going to be a decider. The wicket looks pretty good. It looks a sporting wicket. There is a little bit of grass. We just have to play positive cricket, with batsmen looking to score runs and bowlers looking to take wickets,” said the Sri Lankan skipper.
“The last game we played here was Pakistan. They have relaid the wicket and it will have a bit more carry. You can’t really predict a wicket but with this heat at the SSC it should be good. We don’t ask for wickets and let the curator do his job. We’ll always try to stick to what we can do on that wicket,” he added.
“Both teams are in a rebuilding phase. Both have got young batsmen and bowlers, who haven’t played that many Test matches. They are still finding their way in Test cricket.
It’s good to have results. That’s what we play for. In a rebuilding phase you’ve got to be patient, win or lose,” said the skipper.
He added that both teams are trying to find their combinations.
“Both teams are trying to find their combinations. They have got good fast bowlers and spinners. On the day, whoever scores more runs and takes more wickets will obviously win. I can’t see much of a difference between these two teams,” Mathews signed off.