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Sri Lankan skipper Angelo Mathews admitted that his side will have their work cut out in order to come out on top against an in-form Indian side when the two sides meet on Thursday at the Kia Oval in London in what will be the eighth match of the 2017 ICC Champions Trophy.
Mathews is aware that his side are by all means the underdogs heading into the contest against the Virat Kohli-led side whom he described as a force to be reckoned with considering their performances over the past couple of years.
"As you know, India are a force in world cricket no matter where they play, whether it's at home or away. They have played fantastic cricket especially in the last couple of years. It's very hard to beat them unless we are on top of our game. We will all have to pull our socks up and give a great performance," Mathews said. "We are happy to walk in as the underdogs. I mean, no one really expects us to win the Championship which takes away a lot of pressure out of the guys."
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While India head into the clash on the back of a 124-run victory over arch-rivals Pakistan, Sri Lanka began their tournament on a bad note losing to South Africa by a margin of 96 runs. The absence of stalwarts like Mahela Jayawardene, Kumar Sangakkara, and Tillakaratne Dilshan have been reflected in the below par performances of the side over the past couple of years.
While they did script a remarkable 3-0 Test series whitewash against Australia at home, results have rarely gone their way in general with the manner of defeats presenting a worrying picture.
Despite the alarming results, Mathews feels that Sri Lanka are going through a transition phase wherein young players are being blooded in and feels that his side have done well considering the pedigree of batsman they had to replace.
He touched on the team’s victories over South Africa and Australia to showcase his point, claiming that his side are not too far behind in comparison with the other major cricket playing nations. Mathews, however, made an exception for India, commending their recent performances and claiming that the Kohli-led side were a tough one to beat.
The 30-year-old gave injury updates on the clash against India and said that Chamara Kapugedara was a doubt for the match against India after he picked up an injury during training.
Having troubles with injuries of his own, Mathews, who missed the side’s clash against South Africa, stated that he would be playing against India purely as a batsman and admitted that his non-availability as a bowler was something that hurt the team’s balance but something which was beyond his control.
Following the loss against South Africa, the match against India will prove to be a crucial one for Mathews’ side if they harbour dreams of progressing to the semi-final stage of the competition.
India, on the other hand, are firm favourites heading into the clash and can ride on the confidence derived from the crushing victory against Pakistan on Sunday.
With Sri Lanka still struggling to get to grips with the retirement of their batting stalwarts, Mathews knows that the chances of them progressing in the Champions Trophy are very slim. In India, they face one of the favourites for the title and anything other than a victory for the Kohli-led side will be a huge surprise.Published 08 Jun 2017, 00:51 IST