Sri Lanka s stand in captain Tillekeratne Dilshan says he s thrilled to lead the country and hoped Queens Park Sports Club at Bulawayo would continue to remain one of his happy hunting grounds. It was at Queens Park Sports Club that Dilshan made both his Test and ODI debuts coming in as a late replacement for the current Chairman of Selectors Aravinda de Silva, who pulled out of that tour due to personal reasons.
`It s a great honour to lead your country and I am happy to fill the role in Kumar s absence,` the 33-year-old said speaking to reporters in Bulawayo.
At a time when a string of Test-playing nations, most recently New Zealand, have chosen to boycott the country because of political problems and the repressive rule of President Robert Mugabe, Dilshan said that he didn t have any problems in visiting the African nation.
`I like it here,` Dilshan said. It`s a good country.`
`I made both my Test and ODI debuts here in Bulawayo in 1999 and I`m glad to come back as captain,` he added.
His debut was followed by a fine 163 in the next Test in Harare as Sri Lanka recorded their first Test win in Zimbabwe. His effort won him the Man of the Match award as the tourists won by six wickets.
The Sri Lankan selectors, like their Indian counterparts, have rested several senior players providing the likes of Dilshan and Suresh Raina of India an opportunity to lead their teams. Dilshan has already led his country in a T-20 International, but this will be his first game as captain in one-day cricket.
The Sri Lankan captain felt that all three teams had a good chance of winning the tri-nation series. `All three teams have young teams,` he said. `None of the teams is better than the other. We all have equal chances of winning the series.`
Meanwhile, off-spinner Muttiah Muralitharan is set to drop out from the top 20 international bowlers in ODI cricket for the first time since 1996. A player loses half a per cent of his rating points for every ODI missed and with Muralitharan ruled out of the current series, he will lose his present position of number 16 in the ICC Rankings of International bowlers.
Muralitharan will not be the only Sri Lankan to be relegated from the list. Regular captain Kumar Sangakkara occupies the number ten position for the top batsmen in the world and while he s set to lose that position his replacement Tillekeratne Dilshan is expected to move up the order from his current rank of 13.
Sri Lanka are currently ranked number six in ODI cricket, four place either side of second placed India and tenth placed hosts.
Sri Lanka will play their first match on Sunday against India.