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Dec 26, 2010

Sri Lanka ready for any opposition - Law

Sri Lanka Assistant Coach Stuart Law says that despite the postponement of the five-match ODI series against the West Indies last month due to adverse weather conditions, Kumar Sangakkara’s team is on course to make a serious statement at next year’s World Cup. In an interview with Jatila Karawita, Queenslander, Law, 42, who still has a year to go on his two-year contract with the SLC, said that the current Sri Lanka team was equipped to face any strong opposition. He opined that taking over the post of assistant coach of Sri Lanka in November 2009 was a turning point in his professional career, and was optimistic of his charges making their presence felt being one of the co-hosts of the 2011 World Cup.

You were a member of the 1996 Australian World Cup losing team to Sri Lanka in the final. Now, you have assumed the post of assistant coach of Sri Lanka. How do you look at this transformation in your career?
Actually this was something that I really knew nothing about until it was thrust upon me. I was still playing county cricket a year-and-a-half ago and it was cut short unexpectedly and basically I was hovering around not really doing too much trying to find out what I wanted to do. All that time I was concentrating on trying to play, and when this opportunity arose my management team rang me and told that there was a vacancy in Sri Lanka and what I thought. And I also had enjoyed watching Sri Lanka playing over the years and saw this as an opportunity to explore a career in coaching and when it was laid out on the table it was too tempting to resist.

How do you compare the class of 1996 with the class of 2010?

You could compare eras all you like. And that is the way it is done. To me one day cricket has changed since 96, it is all about fitness and power game now. The all around ability of most players in the current squad is something which Sri Lanka did not have back in 96, but then that team had a batting line up that was a class act. You can’t say anything about that team because they lifted the World Cup. Let’s just see how these guys perform. Let’s not always look back. What happened in 96 was brilliant. But, since then we’ve made a final, but we haven’t quite got across the line through one reason or another. But, this next tournament, we are backing our players to go out there, perform on the big stage, not fear any opposition and make sure we come out of it with some silverware. Don’t always want to be looking back and saying yes they were the great team of 96. That’s brilliant what they achieved back then and hats off to them. But, let’s look at these young kids, let’s make them the next great warriors of Sri Lankan cricket to go out there and win the World Cup. And then you could probably compare the eras and whatever.

What sort of an effect would the postponement of the five-match ODI series against the West Indies last November would have on Sri Lanka’s chances at the World Cup?

It would have been nice to play and it would have given the selectors more clarity in choosing their combinations. If you talk to Trevor Bayliss or me we are pretty settled, in which we could pick a team of 15 that we think could win the World Cup, if not come close to it. The final 15 that is going to be picked, there are going to be some players who will be unfortunate to miss out, but because it is played at home we are picking the combinations that we think will do the job against the best teams in the world. It wasn’t great when the series got disrupted, but, they are due to come back in end of January and early February for a revised short series and that should enhance our preparations. Furthermore the players also have some domestic club and provincial limited overs cricket lined up and cricket wise I don’t think boys will have anything to complain about between now and the start of the World Cup.

What is your take on the new venues for the 2011 World Cup in Sri Lanka?

When these stadiums are built they will actually be magnificent stadiums for international cricket.
Pallekele Stadium in Kandy looks like a quite a picturesque venue... having being there for the third Test-match against the West Indies early this month.
So are the Kettarama Stadium in Colombo and the Sooriyaweva Stadium in Hambantota. Yes we are still unsure how the floodlights or the dew will affect those batting second in day night games. But, we are hoping that between now and the start of the World Cup by playing some domestic cricket we should be able to get some kind of indication as to how those pitches will behave and prepare accordingly. So fingers crossed we hope for the best.

In other words you are confident Sri Lanka will be equipped to face up to any eventuality at the three venues come the World Cup?

It is not so much the surface it is more the atmospheric conditions. The three venues are situated at some of the most humid and arid zones of Sri Lanka. And those coming from places like England and South Africa will find it difficult to cope with the conditions. But, wickets in general in the sub continent are ideal for one day internationals especially for batting and I guess the grounds in Sri Lanka will not be an exception.

Who would be the favourites for the 2011 World Cup in your estimation?

India has become a true powerhouse in world cricket and as one of the major co-hosts will be there or thereabouts and Bangladesh cannot to be written off either as underdogs anymore, considering their giant-killing performances in the last World Cup in the West Indies. And you can’t underestimate Pakistan also because if you do that it will be at your peril. But, I believe that Sri Lanka is on course to make a serious impact at the upcoming World Cup. If we get through the initial rounds, we’ve got the quarter finals and semi finals here and if we get into the final it will be Wankade Stadium in Mumbai which will be another home away from home for us. It really turns there from my experience of having played in Mumbai a bit. I think any of the four sub-continent teams are quite capable of going all the way. Among the rest we need to watch out for South Africa and England as both have decent records in this part of the world.

What is really the reason for cotton wooling Lasith Malinga from Test cricket?

You could say that he has been put in cotton wool, but I think it is more injury management as far as Malinga is concerned. He did suffer a career-threatening injury a couple of years ago and every time he gets pain in that area he shows the tendency to break down during games. He wants to play for Sri Lanka there is no doubt about that as I know it for a fact, being the assistant coach. Whether Test cricket is the ideal format is for a bowler like him is the question considering because of the intensity and the wickets here are virtual graveyards for faster bowlers. To put his body through that much stress day in and day out and to then combine that with 50-over cricket and T-20 cricket it would be probably ridiculous for him to put himself through such a grindstone. He is one of our strike weapons and a national treasure and one of the most potent weapons very unorthodox and if we don’t look after him well we’ll have no one to blame but ourselves in the long term.

How do you look at the captaincy of Kumar Sangakkara?

He is a very intelligent man and he has his own thoughts and his own ideas as a captain has to. He seeks the advice of the coaches more often than not as any skipper would do but you’ve got to have your own ideas and go with your gut feeling. It is also a tough job especially here in Sri Lanka where you have to contend with the views of not only the cricket fraternity but the public fraternity as well. He is a great fellow he works extremely hard and is a true leader of men with his work ethic which is second to none.

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