Staying focused against Kenya on Tuesday is the next issue

When you pick-up this newspaper we’ll either be on a high after two straight wins, making us favourites with Australia to top the group, or disappointed after a loss to Pakistan that leaves us with work ahead for qualification.

Pakistan was a big test because they are a dangerous team with a good record against us – wins in all their six World Cup encounters together before and five straight wins at Premadasa before last night’s game – so if we can win it would be a confidence booster.

Rangana Herath, Mahela Jayawardane and skipper Kumar Sangakkara celebrates the wicket of Kamaran Akmal. Pic by Sanka Vidanagama

Either way, our priority must remain to stay focused on the next game against Kenya on Tuesday night. We know all about the embarrassment of losing to Kenya after that debacle in Nairobi back in 2003 and they have some useful players in their ranks.

For us it was a relatively relaxed week after last Sunday’s excellent game at Hambantota. That was nice after quite a hectic build-up to the tournament and it allowed us all to refresh, relax and prepare mentally for a busier week ahead.

We discovered in the West Indies four years ago the value of organizing your non-cricket time well and had lots of team activities, especially beach volleyball that we played for hours. It really helped everyone bond together and contributed to the Great Spirit in the team.

We do similar team events during all tours now and during the past week a good example was our Thursday quiz night, a fiercely competitive but fun evening. The quizmaster had a tough job controlling the teams but in the end it was Upul Tharanga’s team, which included Sanga and Anura (Tennekoon) that won.

We were able to have a complete day off on Monday and Tuesday, but returned to practices for the rest of the week and continued to work really hard. The intensity and focus of the training sessions has been really good.

The Hambantota game was a great experience. It was exciting to properly open a new international stadium and all the guys were impressed with the facilities. The pitch was obviously the most important thing from our point of view and both the practice pitches and the match pitch were top-class.
When you are playing a relatively weak international team the key thing you ask for is a good true pitch. A poor pitch with excessive movement or uneven bounce gives an advantage to the weaker teams making the game more of a lottery. But at Hambantota we got a true, hard surface that was perfect for us.

The whole development of the stadium was impressive too. I know they still have lots of plans to add additional features to the venue and if all this goes to plan then it could become one of the best stadiums in Asia.

From a cricketing perspective, the key to the Canada game was easing our team into the tournament, settling some of the early World Cup nerves, and being as efficient and clinical as possible. We ticked all the boxes and the management was very happy.

The crowd clearly loved the occasion and it was obvious that for many of them it was their first live international game. We enjoyed the experience, but it was not quite the electric atmosphere that you sometimes get at Premadasa.

One week into the tournament and we’ve already seen a few interesting trends. For example, sides have not quite raced out of the blocks and have preferred to keep wickets in hand. We’ll have to see whether that continues when the matches get closer.

The other thing that I have realized is that there is a substantial difference in conditions in the three hosting countries. That is going to make for some interesting tactical decisions with regard to match strategy and selection during the coming weeks.

I was impressed with Holland’s effort against England and that was probably the closest match, although Ireland did well to make Bangladesh work really hard for their victory. If Holland had one more wicket-taking bowler they might have pulled off a huge upset.

There will be some bigger matches ahead this week as the pace of the tournament picks up. I hope that also means that we build up momentum and get into a good tournament groove.

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