WC 2003 - ~~It~~s a mental battle against intimidating Aussies~~

Published: Wednesday, February 19, 2003, 23:53 [IST]
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Port Elizabeth: Sri Lanka's Australian coach Dav Whatmore insists his team will have to be mentally strong if it is to beat the reigning champions in Tuesday's World Cup semi-final.Australia goes into the game at St George's Park having won all its nine matches so far, while Sri Lanka sneaked through to the semi-finals with considerable help from Asian neighbours India.Whatmore, who guided Sri Lanka to the World Cup title in 1996, said the task ahead was difficult, but not impossible. "Australia is a very good side," the 49-year-old said. "It is clearly the form team and the favourites. What brings it back to the field is the surface we are going to play on. But that's one thing. Our guys have got to be ready for it mentally more than anything else."Whatmore believes the slow wicket at the St George's Park gives him confidence for the key match. "The last game against Aussies was atrocious," he said referring to the 96-run defeat handed by Australia in the Super Sixes match at Centurion."It wasn't too good and we didn't play very well at all on a wicket that offered some bounce to the fast bowlers of Australia. We are not sure whether the St George's pitch will be as fast, although Brett Lee did well in the last game against New Zealand, especially his second spell where he reversed the ball at pace."I just somehow feel we got more of a chance than we do in pitches at Johannesburg. In Port Elizabeth, potentially we've seen sides struggle to score 209-210. If we can muster up a figure close to 250 it will be very interesting."I think the wicket will suit Sri Lanka's style of bowling more than it did at the Centurion," he said. Sri Lanka would have been ousted from the tournament had India lost its last Super Sixes game to New Zealand. Having survived, Sri Lanka went on to beat Zimbabwe on Saturday to advance to the semi-finals. "It was not the ideal way to get in to the semi-finals in the route that we've taken," Whatmore said."But nevertheless, you have objectives and you have goals. Our first goal was to reach the Super Sixes and we did that. The second goal was to make the semi-finals. We've done that."I don't think we can be too critical." Whatmore added there was no comparison with the World Cup winning side of 1996. "The 1996 team was a beauty. It was a really good one. Anyone of the top seven batsmen could score a hundred at any time. Clearly our strength was our batting and we bowled around spin," he said."With this particular team, we have some concerns in the middle order. We have a player like Mahela Jayawardene clearly out of form and not playing. He's a very good player."But I think we are showing a few signs of coming out of it. We can't just pick on a batting team or a bowling team to win a game. I am more interested in getting the players up more psychologically. Not many players in a career would play in a World Cup semi-final."Copyright AFP 2001

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