If the group stage exit at Champions Trophy and the defeat in ODI series at home against Zimbabwe is a precursor of Sri Lanka’s future, then it is safe to say that the island nation is looking destined to suffer more miseries in coming months. The 1996 World Cup-winners have endured a terrible time this year, losing 5-0 in ODIs against South Africa, failing to win series against Bangladesh at home and then these recent debacles in the Champions Trophy and Zimbabwe. All these setbacks were followed by perhaps the biggest one as their influential all-rounder Angelo Mathews stepped down as the skipper of the team from all formats in the aftermath of the series loss against Zimbabwe.
And the going will only get tougher for Sri Lanka as they are gearing up to face world number one Test side India in the three-match series starting July 26.
Spin legend Muttiah Muralitharan has backed Virat Kohli & Co. to win the upcoming Test series. The former Sri Lanka bowler did not have any idea of the pitches that would be on offer for India but backed the visitors’ lethal spinners R Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja to come out well against his country.
“Obviously, India will start as favourites. In Sri Lanka, I’m not too sure how the pitches will play. When India visit, they might get flat wickets. But Ashwin and Jadeja will do very well. The Sri Lankans are not playing well at the moment and both of them can capitalise on that advantage. Ashwin is now just going from strength to strength. He is a very smart cricketer and is bowling at his best right now,”
“I have seen Ashwin since my Chennai Super Kings days. He always had the talent. Now, he is getting better with experience. In a way, IPL helped him gain experience and then Dhoni guided him in the right way. Dhoni believed in Ashwin and brought him to the Indian side. And Ashwin is also a smart cricketer. He is probably bowling his best at the moment.”
Muralitharan, who is has been named the mentor of VB Thiruvallur Veerans for the Tamil Nadu Premier League, said.
“In India, of course, Ashwin and Jadeja will always be lethal. It all depends on the pitches. In South Africa and the other tours coming up, they will find it difficult as the wickets won’t be favourable,” he added.
Muralitharan also restrained himself from making any comment on the sorry state of Sri Lankan cricket. With the inexperienced team struggling at the moment, the experience of former greats like Kumar Sangakkara, Mahela Jayawardene or Murali himself might make a difference but Muralitharan does not think so.
“Since my retirement, I have not been involved in Sri Lankan cricket,” he said. “It’s been 5-6 years. I don’t understand what’s happening there. Without being aware of the situation, I don’t think it will be right for me to comment. However, there is definitely a problem. The performance of the team has dipped and they will have to rectify it.
“Bringing in Sangakkara, Jayawardene or me won’t be a solution because we are all busy with other commitments. Sangakkara is still playing cricket and Mahela is busy with coaching commitments just like me. So, they will have to look for a solution themselves,” the highest wicket-taker in Tests added.