Sports, Cricket

Sri Lanka likely to have spinner Thhekshana against Pakistan

Published : 09 Oct 2023 08:33 PM

Sri Lanka spinner Maheesh Thhekshana is likely to strengthen the XI for their second World Cup game against Pakistan today, as their assistant coach Naveed Newaz informed.

“He’s fit and should play tomorrow,” Nawaz said on the eve of the match. “Didn't want to risk him in the first game against medical advice but he should be ready here.”

Theekshana did not play Sri Lanka's first game against South Africa because he was still recovering from a hamstring strain sustained during the Asia Cup. In his absence, an inexperienced attack was plundered for the highest total in World Cup  - 428 - in Delhi.

Sri Lanka, however, haven't had much time to brood over the beating they suffered against South Africa, hopping on a flight to Hyderabad within 12 hours of that defeat. Nawaz said the team must expect to be put under pressure once again, but hoped they will have better plans against Pakistan.

"It's simple, we expect to face similar pitches," he said. "They're not going to change; it's going to be batting-friendly mostly. We have to look at our execution and see how we could've pulled back another 50-60 runs. We have to keep the group positive, that is most important. It's a long tournament, we're going to be playing, traveling and doing other things for over a month. We just have to take the learnings from each game and move forward."

Sri Lanka have MahelaJayawardene on board as a consultant, to tap into his vast experience of having played and coached in India. One of his responsibilities is to speak to the younger players about handling big-tournament pressure, something he's credited with having accomplished at Mumbai Indians in the IPL. And plenty of young Sri Lankan players have had to step up at short notice at this World Cup.

Indeed, 20-year-oldDunithWellalagaewasn't their first-choice spinner but had the responsibility thrust on him against South Africa because WaninduHasaranga was ruled out of the tournament with injury and Theekshana missed the opening game. Wellalage finished with 0 for 81 in ten overs, but three others conceded even more.

Wellalagehad been eased into the set-up on the back of a stellar Asia Cup, where he left his imprint against India. But the Kolta flatbed was extremely different to the dry turner in Pallekele. While Wellalage will likely have the more experienced Theekshana for company against Pakistan, the team believes he is mature beyond his years.

"Dunith has had to face a lot of responsibility, where he's been pushed up as the main bowler in the last couple of games. I think he reacted exceptionally well," Nawaz said. "He has done well in the Asia Cup. Even on a batting-friendly track in Delhi, he bowled reasonably well. This is a game of learning; he's moving forward, and we are happy with that."