Sri Lanka captain Lasith Malinga has issued a rallying cry to his team as the road to the World Cup enters its final stages.
“There’s no time to rebuild – the World Cup is this year,” the Sri Lankan captain Lasith Malinga said at Bay Oval on Wednesday. “Now we have to find who is the best in Sri Lankan cricket.
"The last three or four years we’ve struggled for consistency but a lot of the young players are getting good opportunities. Now is the time to stand up and show our character.”
Ranked eighth in the world, the 1996 World Cup Champions Sri Lanka haven’t had the best of times recently. They lost home ODI series to England and South Africa and had earlier been knocked out of the 2018 Asia Cup in the group stage itself. Not having a settled unit and a series of injuries to key members have also plagued Sri Lanka in 2018.
But with a new captain in Malinga, who seems to have turned a corner in the last year or so, the Islanders will be hoping for a fresh start in the new year.
“The last couple of series we’ve performed well at the end of the tournament – what people have to understand is that we have to perform well when the series starts,” said Malinga.
“We need to consolidate our first 10 overs, how we’re going to address the conditions, how we build a good partnership – then we have time to accelerate at the end of the innings.”
For New Zealand, on the other hand, 2018 turned out to be an excellent year. They were impeccable in the longest format of the game and more than competitive in ODI and T20I formats.
The finalists of last year’s World Cup, New Zealand will hope to go one better this year and for that opener Martin Guptill’s form will be key. The 32-year-old was the leading run-scorer in the 2015 World Cup slamming 547 runs in nine matches which included a career-best 237* against the West Indies.
The swashbuckling opener, however, has been on the sidelines for a while now due to a calf injury and admits he will be a bit rusty coming into the series.
“It’s fair to say I may be a bit rusty … I was rusty the other day playing for Auckland,” Guptill said. “Hopefully the cobwebs can be blown out in the nets.
"I haven’t played for NZ since last summer, which is quite a long time ago. To be back here is extremely exciting and I’m looking forward to getting back into it.”
Guptill last turned out for New Zealand in March last year and while he did play in the Caribbean Premier League 2018, there has not been a lot of cricket apart from that. He therefore is looking at the three-match series as good preparation for the marquee event which gets underway in England & Wales later this year.
“There’s no better preparation than playing a series. "The more one-day cricket you play the better,” he said.
“Before the last World Cup, we played Sri Lanka in a seven-match series and then Pakistan in a two-game series and that put us in a really good stead for the World Cup.”
The first two games of the series will be played in Mount Maunganui before the teams travel to Saxton Oval, in Nelson for the third ODI.