It does not get any better than this – playing your first World Cup at home! We arrived at the Mahinda Rajapaksha International Cricket Stadium at Hambantota for our first practice having flown on a Sri Lanka Air Force helicopter from Colombo this afternoon. It is a spectacular venue, easily one of the best in Sri Lanka now, and we are looking forward to playing on it.
After months of preparation and anticipation, the show finally gets on the road for us on Sunday with the game against Canada. There are a few of us in this squad that are playing in our first World Cup and we all relate to the shared feeling of tremendous excitement. And even for the senior players who have experienced one or more World Cups, this is the first on home soil for them with the exception of Murali. Even then, in 1996, there were only three matches played in Sri Lanka as Australia and the West Indies boycotted their matches here and there were no Quarter or Semi Finals scheduled in Sri Lanka either. So, this is really the first full World Cup that Sri Lanka is going to enjoy, and it’s great to be a part of it.
Speaking of the great Murali, he is the only player in the tournament outside of several Aussies who know what it is like to win the big one and his presence and experience on and off the field has been and will be immeasurable to us.
The series against the West Indies and the two warm-up games went really well for us in terms of fine-tuning our preparation and enhancing our confidence levels. Each member of the squad has a role to play and I think that this understanding is now greater than it has ever been. As our captain Kumar Sangakkara has said before, we need to play any eleven from the squad of 15 and not feel the absence of any one or more players.
While we are expected to notch up a first up win against the Canadians, there is no room for any complacency, as Canada showed England in their warm-up match which the latter managed to eventually win by 16 runs. The Canadians are almost entirely made up of sub-continental players and cannot be discounted as the minnow, perhaps this time around, that seemingly causes an upset at every World Cup. We just need to ensure that it is not against us and focus on performing to the best of our abilities with the bat, ball and on the field.
As much as I’m looking forward to this World Cup, I know, so are you, the fans, many of whom have come up to me to shake my hand and wish the team great success. Your support has been quite amazing and very much appreciated and it certainly adds to our determination and focus to do well for our country in this World Cup. I will continue to give you updates when I can on this blog as well as on my Facebook Page and look forward to your continued support this Sunday.