Sri Lanka skipper Upul Tharanga on Wednesday asked his top order batsmen to fire against a dominant India, urging them not to throw their wickets in the second One-Day International on Wednesday. Sri Lanka were positioned nicely in the first ODI at 139 for one but lost nine wickets for just 77 runs to be all out for a modest 216. "To get to a big total we need the top four batsmen to fire. One or two of them must make a big score. That's what we have seen in the past 10-15 years. If a player gets a century then we can put up a good total between 280-300," Tharanga said at the pre-match press conference.
"What I expect from the batsmen is once they have settled in, they should bat the entire innings and take us to a decent total. If you look at the past results we have been in good positions in the first 20-25 overs. From there onwards only we have lost the grip as batsmen played irresponsible shots," said the skipper.
There was much hue and cry after their crushing defeat on Sunday and Tharanga sought to placate the angry fans apart from rejecting rumours of a dressing room rift.
Test skipper Dinesh Chandimal was left out of the playing eleven in the series-opener, triggering speculation that it was a divided dressing room.
"It was our bad luck we could not win the first ODI. But all the players are in good spirits because we have been preparing for this series well ahead of time. I have faith in the players that for the second ODI they will come up with a much better performance.
"Every time the fans have been behind us when we won or lost. As a team all I can say is that we go out 100 percent to win the match. None of the 15 players in the squad go out to lose a match. We expect their support because that is the one that gives us strength and encouragement to perform well."
Asked about Chandimal's return to the ODI line-up, Tharanga replied, "We have not come to a final conclusion with the team but there certainly will be changes."
In addition to Tharanga, interim coach Nic Pothas was also present in the press conference on Wednesday to issue a statement. Reportedly, Sri Lanka Cricket took objection to his stance of 'too many cooks' in the post-match conference in Dambulla.
"It should be stated that I am very happy with everything that's going on within our four walls in the change room. And just to clarify things I am very happy with the situation with the Board that has been hugely supportive of everything that I do and the players do. They continue to support us. Certainly I have no issues there," said Pothas.
The skipper also dismissed suggestions that paceman Lasith Malinga is way past his best.
"Every cricketer goes through this phase. He has returned to ODI cricket after being out for about 18 months. But since his return he has been unable to produce those match winning performances mainly because catches have been dropped off his bowling. But his presence in the team is a big boon to the young fast bowlers who can learn a lot from him," he said.
Sri Lanka can still seal automatic qualification for the 2019 ODI World Cup if they win two matches in this series. It will be a tough ask against a rampant Indian side, even if the hosts have an eye on what West Indies are doing on their England tour.
"As a team we go to each match to win. We are not thinking too far but taking match by match. Tomorrow's contest is vital for us because we lost the first. To qualify for the 2019 World Cup we have to win two matches of the current series. All the players in the squad are aware of it. Our main aim is to win every match," said Tharanga.
"West indies are also trying to win and increase their points in the standings. We know what is expected from us but if we think too much it will affect our performances. So we are taking it match by match," he signed off.