The series that is eagerly awaited by the fanatic Bangladeshi cricket loving public will start tomorrow morning in Colombo. Sri Lankan cricket fans are not uninterested. But the Bangladeshis are more keen to see how their boys would perform after their showing in England, especially in the context of the very positive statement made by Dav that his charges would win the ODI series.
In Sri Lanka there is a popular joke, which is alarmingly true more often than not, that whenever a foreign cricket team visits Sri Lanka, it will rain, even in the midst of the worst possible drought. Colombo experienced rain in the past two nights and today the skies are pregnant with grey clouds. So the winner tomorrow could be Sri Lanka, Bangladesh or rain!
Sri Lanka, obviously, will focus on winning the first two games and will try out new players only in the third match. Tom Moody and Chief Selector Kaluperuma do not wish to take chances.
One of Sri Lanka's most effective ODI bowlers (who ironically, is also one of the most effective batsmen ever in world ODI cricket) will not bowl in this series in order to protect his recently dislocated shoulder. He is only second to Murali in terms of ODI wickets taken by Sri Lankan bowlers. Sanath Jayasuriya is known for getting breakthroughs when it is needed and is a master of the Sri Lankan art of slow-strangulation. So this is good news for the Bangladeshi team.
With the new rules being adopted, Sri Lanka is likely to have someone like Avishka Gunawardane or Upul Tharanga as the full substitute. This will be a key factor if Sri Lanka wins the toss tomorrow. The Sri Lankan batting machine will be like Dracula or some other nasty monster from a horror movie, always coming back after being ground to dust.
Tillekaratne Dilshan, the boundary hitter, must be rearing to go tomorrow. His guns misfired in the recent series with India and the West Indies and he must be kicking his heels as I write this, impatient to feel the ball on his bat.
Chaminda Vaas and Farveez Maharoof are most likely to open the bowling attack. The latter is developing into an ideal partner for Vaas and this tour could very well be a turning point in his career. Mark my words.
Murali has not been at his ominous best in recent times. This tour could mark the return of the old Murali, full of guile and always with a smile, eyes popping out, confusing the batsman as to, "now which one of them is the ball!?
Tom Moody walked into the test series with the West Indies and the tri-series that followed, but has had a gap of time before the series with Bangladesh. So this could be the first test where we can see the impact he has had on the team. He is humble and gets on very well with the team, knowing all the time what he needs to do and how to do it. This way, he is the best kind of coach a mature team like Sri Lanka needs. He is not a Montessori teacher who tries to pull your pants down when you go to the loo, that kind of coach will only get in the way of a team like Sri Lanka.
Bangladeshis have been preparing conscientiously and diligently for this series, even employing look-alikes of Murali and Lasith Malinga to practice batting against. This team has a new found image to maintain - that of ?no-longer-an-underdog?. They also have to live up to Dav Whatmore?s boasts of beating Sri Lanka in the ODI series. They do have mature players like Bashar and Omar, widely respected around the world for their performances. They also have flamboyant players like Shariar Nafees. And then they have a cowboy who shoots first and then asks questions: Ashraful, who could kill a whole town and then ask himself why. What they need to do is to believe in themselves and remember that they beat Australia - which was no fluke. And lastly, they need not respect names. If they do these, this tour would be memorable for Bangladesh, signaling to the whole world that they have finally arrived. After all, what more would Whatmore want?