Jonathan Raymond | December 9, 2013
The UAE is set to begin hosting a very interesting series between Sri Lanka and Pakistan this week. Two T20s, five ODis and three Tests all to come in the next six weeks or so between Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Sharjah.
Sri Lanka are a very talented country – Kumar Sangakkara is one of the ICC’s nominees for cricketer of the year – but unfortunately they haven’t been a very active side this year.
Their most recent series came against New Zealand at the end of November, but before that they hadn’t played another proper series since August when they hosted South Africa in Colombo. They haven’t played a Test since March, when they faced Bangladesh.
Against the Black Caps, Sri Lanka won one of the ODI matches and one T20 (two of the five one-days were washed out by rain). And in August, they won four of the five ODIs v South Africa and one of three T20 internationals.
So it’s not like Sri Lanka aren’t a formidable side. They are, with the likes of Lasith Malinga, Sangakkara and Angelo Mathews among their share of top global talents.
Which makes this series particularly interesting.
They just don’t get the chance to play very often. So while Sri Lanka need to go back to August to find an opponent of South Africa’s quality on their fixture list, Pakistan have been playing the Proteas themselves with regularity – here, in this country, and in South Africa – for the past couple months.
But Pakistan have their batting woes, and they’ll be missing Mohammad Irfan and they just barely beat Afghanistan in Sharjah yesterday.
Then again, they beat South Africa in a T20 as recently as November 22. And the absence of Mahela Jayawardene (following the birth of his child) might mean more to Sri Lanka than Irfan’s will to Pakistan.
So what we’ll be treated to, is two of the world’s most tantalizingly talented sides. Each with their own problems at the moment, but still also the world’s No 1 (Sri Lanka) and 4 (Pakistan) ranked T20 sides by the ICC. Meaning that it will be, at the very least, a fascinating series to follow.
Ahead of Wednesday’s opener, Sangakkara – the world’s fourth-ranked one-day batsman – talks about Jayawardene’s absence, Tillakaratne Dilshan’s retirement and playing in the UAE.
“They know it’s a great place to play cricket and a great team to play against,” he explains. “We know it’s going to be tough, no doubt about it.”
Listen to the full interview below to hear what Sangakkara has to say before Sri Lanka v Pakistan kicks off on Wednesday.