Bloodshed has been a part of Sri Lankan history for as long as most of its countrymen can remember. Which could explain why Angelo Mathews was able to easily empathise with the people of Manchester when asked about the recent terror attacks.
In the wake of the the suicide bombing at the Manchester Arena last week, questions of security have been raised in the lead up to the Champions Trophy 2017 in England. While most other captains offered their condolences, Mathews showed a deeper understanding for the situation.
“We are deeply shocked and saddened by the whole incident. Our thoughts and prayers are with those affected,” said Mathews in London on Thursday (May 25). “We had to go through 30 years of war, and we all know how bad it is. We really hope that there will be peace all over the world very soon. We pray for that as well.”
As for the safety of his side, Mathews trusted the security measures adopted and didn’t seem at all perturbed. “Look, the manager has briefed us, the security personnel have briefed us. We don’t have to really worry about what’s going on about the security. They’ve been taken care of. And we just have to go out there and just concentrate on what we have to do. The rest will be taken care of by the respective personnel.”
Sri Lanka, who shared the title with India in 2002, will kick off their Champions Trophy journey against South Africa at the Kennington Oval on June 3. Sri Lanka, who are in the same pool as India, Pakistan and South Africa in Group B, seem the weak link at this point, but they’ve shown repeatedly in the past that they can’t be taken lightly.
“We’ve had a few lapses in the last few months. And nobody will give us a chance, But we’re happy to enter the tournament as underdogs, as anyone may call us,” insisted Mathews. “But we are confident. We prepared extremely well. We’re not looking too far ahead. We just want to take it one game at a time, try and do our very best in that game and try and win it and look forward to the next.”
He continued: “We are a pretty young, inexperienced team, but I think a few of us have played in England. And as I said before, anyone can change a game at any given stage.”
Mathews also played down the impact of their seven-wicket loss against Scotland in a practice game earlier this week. “It was just a practice game for us. We rested a few players. In an ideal scenario we would have bowled first as well, but I wanted our batters to bat in those conditions when the wicket is fresh,” he offered.
“The result didn’t really matter for us. Even in the second game, even though we thrashed them (Sri Lanka won by nine wickets with 163 balls to spare), the result didn’t matter to us. All we wanted was to just to go out there and acclimatise.”
A crucial component to Sri Lanka’s chances in the tournament will be Lasith Malinga. However, the talismanic paceman’s inclusion in the squad has been subject of much debate, owing to his injury-riddled body. Mathews ignored the chatter and insisted Malinga was ready for action.
“He’s fully fit. He got here a few days back and he’s very keen to get on the park. He hasn’t played 50-over games in the recent past, but he has played a lot of games in the IPL where it’s very intense. And he’s been doing a lot of training as well,” explained Mathews. “He’s confident. We are confident. And we all know that he’s a match winner. He’s proven himself over the past so many years. And he can win us a game single-handedly. So we’re looking forward to it.”