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Lanka keen and eager to get over and done with
 

Sri Lanka cricketers are overcoming the disappointment of confronting a weak West Indies side by motivating themselves to the fact that they have had no international cricket for the past two and a half months when the first Test opens at the SSC grounds today.

Sri Lanka cricketers are overcoming the disappointment of confronting a weak West Indies side by motivating themselves to the fact that they have had no international cricket for the past two and a half months when the first Test opens at the SSC grounds today.

Sri Lanka is also aware that they are playing a Test match on home soil for the first time for almost a year. The fact that this is also the country's 150th Test is also a motivating factor for them to perform well.

The Test also marks the return of champion spinner Muttiah Muralitharan to international cricket after an 11-month lay-off having undergone surgery on his bowling arm.

"It is proud to lead the team in the country's 150th Test match and I am sure the others who are going to participate in it will feel proud to be a part of the game. Whether it is a special occasion or not, nothing compares to a Test win," said Sri Lanka captain Marvan Atapattu.

"It has been a long hard road that we have come. A lot of people have been involved in bringing the standard of our cricket to what it is today. A big thank you to each one of them. It's our duty to take this game to the next generation," said Atapattu.

"We don't want to underestimate the opposition. They have nothing to lose. It's a matter of playing the West Indies in a Test match. We only focus that way and not taking any names into consideration," he said.

Atapattu welcomed the return of his match-winning spinner Muralitharan to the team and said: "It is nice to have the best bowler in the world. He is not only the best bowler but also a good team man in the dressing room always encouraging us. Sometimes he is a bit over enthusiastic and he's got to control himself. He is a great character to be with. His absence was really felt in the dressing room."

But Atapattu was quick to add that during his absence others have chipped in to fill the gap competently.

"There were players like Rangana Herath, Sanath Jayasuriya and Upul Chandana who put their hands up and delivered in turns. I am glad that there are players who want to do well when somebody is missing," said Atapattu.

He hoped the pitch would be a traditional SSC one, but left the options open until today to fill in the no. 7 slot. "It is always the additional spinner or a fast bowler. We are looking at an all-rounder with the one-dayers in mind, Gayan Wijekoon, Chandana or (Nuwan) Zoysa. We will finalise the eleven tomorrow taking into consideration the weather pattern," said Atapattu.

Sri Lanka's new coach Tom Moody expressed confidence going into the Test series saying: "We have prepared very well and worked very hard over the last three weeks. I couldn't ask anymore from the players with regard to their commitment to this series. Everyone is looking forward to getting into international cricket after good spell off. What's important to us is the way we play our cricket over the next five days."

West Indies captain Shivnarine Chanderpaul said his weakened team would draw inspiration from the first Test against South Africa at Guyana in April this year when they ran up an imposing 543-5 declared without the contract rebels and came close to beating South Africa. On that occasion Wavell Hinds and Chanderpaul scored double centuries.

"The guys who are playing tomorrow are willing to work hard and looking for opportunity. This is their opportunity to grab it with both hands," said Chanderpaul.

With 85 Tests under his belt, more than twice the number the rest of his team has there will be a heavy burden on Chanderpaul to deliver not only as captain but as a top order batsman.

West Indies coach Bennet King said that he was very happy with the preparations and the team's focus was on the present and to play really well. "The attitudes of all the players have been very good. It's been on the uprise ever since the series against South Africa and Pakistan. The main thing is that West Indies cricket has really invested in moving forward and not staying where they have been."

The teams: SRI LANKA (from): Marvan Atapattu (captain), Sanath Jayasuriya, Kumar Sangakkara, Mahela Jayawardene, Tillakaratne Dilshan, Tilan Samaraweera, Chaminda Vaas, Lasith Malinga, Muttiah Muralitharan, Rangana Herath, Nuwan Zoysa, Gayan Wijekoon, Russel Arnold.

WEST INDIES (from): Shivnarine Chanderpaul (captain), Xavier Marshall, Ryan Ramdass, Runako Morton, Sylvester Joseph, Dwayne Smith, Denesh Ramdin, Omari Banks, Tino Best, Jermaine Lawson, Daren Powell, Narasingh Deonarine, Kerry Jeremy, Deighton Butler.

UMPIRES: Simon Taufel (Australia) and Nadeem Ghauri (Pakistan),

Match Referee: Mike Procter (South Africa).

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