Lanka keen to keep winning stretch at home intact

Published: Tuesday, July 22, 2008, 17:01 [IST]
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Colombo: Skipper Mahela Jayawardene says Sri Lanka are keen to maintain their impressive home record when they take on India in a three-Test series, which starts here on Wednesday.

The hosts have won home series against South Africa, England and the West Indies in the past four years and in the same period have lost just one match in 16 at home -- against Pakistan two years ago.

Jayawardene said pride was the key to success.

"We don't want any team to come and beat us at home. That's the attitude we go with. There is a lot of pride involved in it and we would like to protect that (record)," he said on the eve of the opening Test.

"We are very consistent at home and we will continue to do that because as I have said there is a lot of pride involved in it."

Jayawardene denied there was more pressure on his side to win the series against India, who have quality batsmen in Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid, Venkatsai Laxman, Sourav Ganguly and Virender Sehwag.

"If you can't do well at home, that will be an issue because we have grown up in these conditions and the guys are thriving on that pressure," he said.

"It's a healthy pressure we have in the team that we need to win a home series."

Sri Lanka's latest spin sensation Ajantha Mendis looks set to make his Test debut, especially after his match-winning performance (6-13) against India in the Asia Cup final in Karachi this month.

"It's good to have him, but we still have not finalised our playing eleven. It's good for him if he makes his debut. It's a great opportunity for the young guy," said Jayawardene.

"It is a luxury for him to have Muttiah Muralitharan and Chaminda Vaas around him because they are going to take the bulk of responsibility. What we want him to do is go out and enjoy himself."

Jayawardene said it would be a big opportunity for his youngsters to deliver against an India team full of experienced batsmen and bowlers.

"They are a very strong team. They have got quality batsmen and their record speaks for itself. They have got some really good bowlers to back that up as well," the Sri Lankan captain said.

"It is going to be a really good challenge for us. We have to be very consistent. It is great exposure for some of our younger guys."

India captain Anil Kumble said his team was not focusing on Mendis alone as the hosts had proven match-winners in Muralitharan and seamer Vaas.

"We respect every bowler. Let's not forget it will be his (Mendis) first Test match. As a youngster when you play your first Test you're obviously nervous," said Kumble.

"The two bowlers who have done well over the years are Murali and Vaas and you can't discount that. But look at our batting strength. Most of the batsmen have played 100 Test matches."

Kumble said they had the right combination to succeed on a challenging tour.

"The wickets have favoured the batsmen on earlier tours. We now have a much better understanding of the conditions. It's going to be challenging, but we now have a balanced combination," said Kumble.

India lost 2-1 on their last Test tour of Sri Lanka in 2001, when Kumble and Tendulkar were both unavailable due to injuries.


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