COLOMBO: Sri Lanka needs more on-field aggression to reestablish its Test prowess, new captain Dhananjaya de Silva said Thursday ahead of their one-off red-ball match against Afghanistan.
The island nation is dead last on the World Test Championship (WTC) rankings and their last match in October at the same ground saw a humiliating innings and 222-run loss to Pakistan in their worst ever home defeat.
They slipped to eighth in the global Test rankings last week after Australia’s loss at home to the West Indies, and de Silva said his side had failed to make an impact with their cautious play.
“I have been telling the guys the last few days the need to play aggressive cricket,” he told reporters. “Test matches are won by taking 20 wickets so you can’t be defensive in your mindset. You’ve got to set up attacking fields.”
Sri Lanka’s first Test for the year starts Friday in Colombo and is not part of the World Test Championship but offers a valuable opportunity to trial the team’s overhaul.
De Silva was one of three captains appointed last month to lead Sri Lanka’s Test, ODI and T20 teams — the first time the island has had separate skippers for all three formats.
The middle-order batsman and handy off-spinner takes charge ahead of a full tour slate for the year including a three-Test series in England.
Three uncapped players are among Sri Lanka’s 16-member squad as part of the generational refresh.
“This year is going to be a very big one for us in Test match cricket,” de Silva said. “Start off with a win and then obviously the long-term goal is to improve on our rankings.”
Afghanistan are making a name for themselves in white-ball cricket but have had fewer chances to impress in five-day matches since being granted Test status in 2017.
Captain Hashmatullah Shaidi said that more chances to play five-day games would make his side a force to be reckoned with.
“We have a good domestic structure in place,” he said. “The good thing is a lot of young players are coming through. We do not get many chances in Test match cricket,” he added.
“More Tests means we will know more about the game. That’s the only way we can improve… It’s a good opportunity for the players here and we are ready for the game.”
Afghanistan will be without star leg-spinner Rashid Khan, who is recovering after back surgery.
“As captain, I will miss Rashid a lot,” Hashamtullah said. “He is such an impact player. He will be difficult to replace.”
This week’s Test is Afghanistan’s first against Sri Lanka and their eighth overall.
The match will be followed by three ODIs in Kandy and three T20 matches in Dambulla.