No security worries for Proteas on Lanka tour

Published: Friday, July 21, 2006, 23:53 [IST]
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Colombo:South Africa's first non-white cricket captain Ashwell Prince says his team is not worried about playing in violence-wrecked Sri Lanka on the current tour.

"Prior to the tour, a team of security experts visited Sri Lanka and submitted their observations," Prince told a media conference here late on Thursday.

"We have been assured that everything is fine and are pretty pleased with the arrangements."

South Africa are scheduled to play two Tests and a One-day tri-series also featuring India during the six-week tour of the island nation. All matches will be played in the capital Colombo.

Violence has escalated in Sri Lanka over the last few months, leaving more than 900 dead since December following deteriorating relations between the government and separatist Tamil Tiger rebels.

Two recent suicide bomb attacks in Colombo and its suburbs in which a top military general was killed and the army chief wounded were blamed on the rebels.

Nordic monitors say a 2002 truce between Tamil Tiger guerrillas and the government of Sri Lanka exists only on paper following a surge in violence since the election late November of Mahinda Rajapakse as president with the backing of hardline parties opposed to the peace process.

Attempts to push both sides back to face-to-face talks have failed.

Prince was named skipper for the tour after regular captain Graeme Smith withdrew with an ankle injury and vice-captain Jacques Kallis was sidelined with a tennis elbow injury.

To make matters worse for Prince, veteran all-rounder Shaun Pollock will miss the first Test starting on July 27 because his wife is due to give birth.

"Those players are vital members of our side and it's a big blow," said Prince. "But on the positive side, I feel it's an opportunity for others to put their hands up and show what they are made of."

Prince conceded his side will be the underdogs against a resurgent Sri Lankan team fresh from a successful tour of England where they fought back to draw the Test series 1-1 and blanked the home team 5-0 in the one-dayers.

"Sri Lanka's confidence is high following their success in England and they will obviously start as favourites," he said. "But we are working hard on our game and will try to compete."

Prince said off-spinner Muttiah Muralitharan was the major threat for his side.

"He is their number one bowler and has troubled us over the years," he said. "We will have to raise our game against him and come up with a game plan which will help us counter him."

Sri Lankan captain Mahela Jayawardene, meanwhile, said his team could not rest on the laurels gained in England and needed to start afresh.

"What happened in England was great but it's history now," said Jayawardene, standing in for regular captain Marvan Atapattu. "We are playing in familiar conditions but need to adapt quickly."

South Africa open the tour on Saturday with a three-day game before the first Test starts at the Sinhalese sports club next Thursday.

The second Test will be played at the Sara stadium from August 4-8, followed by the tri-series between August 14-29.

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