WEST Indies will look to Sir Garfield Sobers for inspiration as they aim for a series-saving victory against Sri Lanka in the second Test starting in Colombo today. Sobers, widely regarded as the greatest all-rounder ever to have played the game, is in Colombo to watch the second and final Test at the P Sara Oval.
Sri Lanka have not been a happy hunting ground for West Indies since they played their first official Test on the island in 1993.
The West Indies are yet to win a Test in Sri Lanka in 10 attempts, and suffered an innings defeat in the first Test in Galle last week, where Rangana Herath starred with a match-haul of ten wickets.
Now, West Indies are only above Bangladesh in the ICC Test rankings, while Sri Lanka are one rung above them in seventh place.
Sri Lanka are going through a rebuilding phase after the recent retirements of Kumar Sangakkara and Mahela Jayawardene. But it was still far too strong in Galle for West Indies, who suffered due to sloppy fielding as well as brittle batting.
Responding to Sri Lanka’s massive first-innings total of 484 all out, West Indies twice suffered batting collapses to crash for 251 in their first innings and then 227 in the second innings after following-on.
While West Indies are expected to be unchanged, captain Jason Holder, acknowledged that his batsmen need to show more application.
“At this present time, we need to knock it down, we need to take it slower and slow down the game as much as possible — simplify it as much as possible, and make it easy for us,” said Holder. “I have full confidence in the guys.
“I just told them: ‘Don’t get dejected, it’s not the end of the world. We have another Test match to make amends and come back stronger’. We will push for that one-all draw.”
Like Sobers, Holder hails from Barbados and is looking to put a smile on the face of a man whom he has described as “one of the greatest to play the game”.
Holder explained that another crucial aspect would be the way his batsmen improved their approach to Herath. “I think we need to be a little more patient when we’re batting him, and just be a little more positive and decisive. Once we do that in the second Test, we will be a lot better off.”
In contrast, Angelo Mathews, Holder’s opposite number, is wary of dwelling on the past and spent the build-up to the match speaking of his satisfaction at his team’s response to the recent retirements.
He was particularly delighted with the performances of Dinesh Chandimal and Dimuth Karunaratne, who both scored hundreds in Galle.
“We can’t keep talking of the past all the time,” he said. “After Sangakkara and Mahela left the team, we needed those guys to stand up and take the responsibility. I’m glad that they did it.”
The main question for Sri Lanka’s selectors will be whether to keep faith with Tharindu Kaushal, the off-spinner who only took one wicket in Galle. The experienced Dilruwan Perera would be a like-for-like replacement.
Lahiru Thirimanne is also vulnerable after a run of low scores, with Kusal Mendis, the uncapped 20-year-old wicketkeeper-batsman, waiting in the wings.