Visiting Sri Lanka skipper Angelo Mathews says they are not reluctant tourists but they needed to prepare better to take on a tough side like India in their own backyard. (Warm-up match: Sri Lanka face India A as fringe players look to impress)
BCCI convinced Sri Lanka Cricket to send their team for the series after West Indies players pulled out of their tour mid-way. (Jasprit Bumrah doubtful for warmp-up tie vs Sri Lanka)
"It's not that we are reluctant to play a series. It is however not the ideal preparation for a tour like India. We know that India is a tough place to play cricket and you need your preparation on a high to play the series against India in India, especially. In the past one-and-half months we were focusing on our fitness a lot and suddenly this tour came up, so we had to take it," Mathews said ahead of their tour opener against India A in Mumbai on Thursday. (Virat Kohli slips to third spot in ICC rankings for batsmen)
"After the Pakistan series we had a couple of months off. We had about 10 days' complete rest and then started our physical fitness because we had been playing right through. We were planning on hitting our peak levels during the English tour but this was a sudden shift. (Also read: Amidst legends, Angelo Mathews is leading Sri Lanka by example)
"And as players, you need to take those in a positive way. These things happen and as players, you need to adapt to those situations and get the maximum out of it," he added.
Mathews, the pace-bowling all-rounder, feels his team cannot be complacent against India even when the hosts are without regular captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni, who has been rested for the first three ODIs.
"Dhoni is a pillar of strength to the Indian team. We all know what a dangerous player he is. If he is not in the Indian team then the opposition might think hang on, we have got a chance here. But you can't be complacent against a team like India," said Mathews.
"They have a very well-balanced team. They have good batters, good bowlers and good fielders, so we can't be complacent thinking that Dhoni is not around. But definitely Dhoni is a big factor in the Indian team," he said The ODI series was hurriedly arranged after the West Indies decided to abandon their India tour midway over a pay dispute involving their board and the players' association.
The 27-year-old though emphasised that this tour would help some of the younger players and also act as a guide in getting the right combination before the World Cup in February-March next year.
"We started our preparation from the Pakistan tour. We are trying to get the combinations, the best 15 for the World Cup, so we will give opportunities to the guys and get the combinations right. At the same time we will try to win as well," he said.
Sri Lanka have not done well in previous bilateral series in India and the all-rounder hoped that they would be able to reverse their fortunes in this tour.
"Preparations aside, we will try to play our best cricket and win against India. Our past experience have not been so good in India so we will try and somehow get it right this time," he said.
He further said left-arm spinner Rangana Herath has been rested while pacer Lasith Malinga is injured but said it will provide opportunities for other youngsters.
"Rangana Herath is one our most experienced guys but we wanted to give an opportunity to the younger guys. We have players like Seekkuge Prasanna, Chaturanga De Silva and Suraj Randiv. Lasith Malinga, unfortunately, is not fit so he was not in contention for selection, but those two are the backbone of our bowling line up. "We don't have many experienced guys on this tour and we all know that this is a very hard place to play cricket and we all will learn from this tour," he said.
Coach Marvan Atapattu said the team needed to work on all areas to improve as a team.
"It is easier for me to say all areas but specifically if we can get up to a bit more in our fielding, I think that will be good. Bowling is another area that demands a lot of skill these days with so much of restrictions.
"If the others in our batting line up, excluding the two seniors (Kumar Sangakkara and Mahela Jayawardene) and the captain, can take the burden a bit then I think we can do better," the former Sri Lankan opener said.