On Poya,a full-moon day when this Buddhist island shuts down completely,Pragyan Ojha took Venkatesh Prasad for a
single-wicket bowling session while his Team India mates battled boredom within the confines of their hotel rooms.
But the stage is set literally,with raised platforms alongside the boundary ropes for the cheerleaders to perform on to have some fun on Tuesday evening as Sri Lanka hosts a Twenty20 international for the first time. The tickets have reportedly been sold out,and the Lankan cricket board expects the stadium to be full despite the lack of support to its domestic T20 tournament.
Team India are looking to merely unwind in this one-off match that will culminate their Sri Lankan trip,but for the hosts it will remain a very serious affair,and a beginning of the journey to 2009 Twenty20 World Championships.
The Lankans have made eight changes,the squad of 15 now consisting largely of players who have either hovered in the fringes of international cricket or made news in the local press. With no Murali and Mendis,no Jayawardene and Sangakkara,Lasith Malinga stands as the most recognisable of the recalled players after working his way back into the national team after a year-long injury absence.
It will be a tough contest against India,who are in good form. But it will be a good chance for some of the youngsters who are doing well in the domestic games to make a mark. It will help them in their preparation for the T20 World Cup, said Tillakaratne Dilshan,who has been appointed as the leader of this young brigade. This is a fresh team,and our aim is to win tomorrows match.
Dhoni,meanwhile,reiterated his stance of enjoying the game. Its not like we are playing a World Cup or a series. It will be good to play a T20 match after a while,but well try to enjoy the game while giving our best, he said. India have played just two Twenty20 internationals after their World Cup victory,winning one and losing one,both against Australia.
The visitors are likely to rest Ishant Sharma,Pragyan Ojha and Praveen Kumar from the set of 14 available after the exit of Sachin Tendulkar. This battle of one-upmanship between Gautam Gambhir,who boasts of the best Twenty20 average and Sanath Jayasuriya,who at 39 years,retains the potency to wreak havoc,could be the highlight of the match.