We~~re fitter, stronger and better now: Moody

Published: Sunday, October 1, 2006, 23:53 [IST]
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New Delhi: Almost a year after their annihilation here, a resurgent Sri Lanka return to India with big wins under their belt and sky-high morale, and both coach Tom Moody and captain Mahela Jayawardene are confident that the islanders will sustain the momentum in the ICC Champions Trophy as well.

Sri Lanka arrived here last night to play for the qualifying stage of the tournament that gets under way on October 7. The Lankans take on Bangladesh in the tournament opener in Mohali.

''It has been a year since were here last. The side has undergone a complete transition and is more matured now,'' Moody said addressing a post-arrival media conference here.''The young players have scored hundreds and have made a significant impact. We are not anymore the team that was thrashed here. We are physically and mentally stronger now and I hope we will continue our winning momentum here,'' the coach said.

Sri Lanka were whitewashed 2-0 in the Tests and thrashed 6-1 in the one-dayers by the hosts last year. However, they have witnessed a dramatic turnaround this year drawing the away Test series against England 1-1 before blanking the hosts 5-0 in the ODIs.

Later, the islanders humiliated South Africa 2-0 in the Test series at home.''It's all about hard work,'' captain Jayawardene said when asked what had caused the turnaround.''Last time we were here in India, there were new rules like powerplay and supersub and it took us sometime to adjust. However that is no excuse and we did play some poor cricket.

''Things have changed for the good ever since. The guys have realised their responsibility and are playing to their potential,'' the captain said.

That they come into the tournament without much of match practice was not a worry for the skipper who felt that the extended break has helped guys recover well.

''Seeing the tri-series against India and South Africa washed out was bit of a disappointment but at the same time it was nice to have a break after six-seven months of cricket.''Most of the guys are now fresh and have recovered from niggles.I can say we had a good break,'' Jayawardene said adding that relegation to the qualifying stage of the tourney was a blessing in disguise as they could get competitive cricket and build on winning tempo before advancing to the main draw.

He said return of Marvan Atapattu was a big boost to the team whereas Sanath Jayasurya in the top form was another shot in arm.''Having Marvan in the side is a big boost as it gives us a lot of options and Sanath, he's playing really good. There's something new to him. The kind of ominous form that he is in, he is an invauable asset to the team,'' he said.

''Add to it our bowling attack in both the departments with young blood and old warhorses like Murali and Vaas and we are serious contenders.'' The captain, who has been in an imperious form himself said settling down to the number three postion in the batting order has helped him immensely in the one-dayers.

Meanwhile, the coach emphasised that they would not undertake unnecessary experimentations in the tournament and would prefer to settle down.''We won't be doing much of an experiment. Our players know their role inside out and we want them to settle into their respective positions,'' Moody said.

The Team: Mahela Jayawardene (c), Marvan Atapattu, Malinga Bandara, TM Dilshan, Dilhara Fernando, Sanath Jayasurya, Chamara Kapugedera, Farvez Maharoof, Muttiah Muralitharan, Ruchira Parera, Kumar Sangakkara (Wk), Upul Tharanga, Lasith Malinga, Chaminda Vaas .

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