Full transcript of press conference
Q. You’ve been here now for what must seem like an eternity since you first arrived here before Christmas. Can you give a sense of what it means to the team now that we’re 24 hours or 22 hours out from the start? You must be basically itching to go.
ANGELO MATTHEWS: Yeah, of course. I mean, it’s nice to have played a bit more cricket in New Zealand before the start of the World Cup, but I think from tomorrow onwards, whoever plays the best cricket will obviously go on to win. But I think we have a slight advantage. We got used to the conditions, and we have a fair idea of what the week could be like. But I think we’ve got to be aggressive and play good cricket to win against New Zealand. They are on a roll. They’ve been in plenty of games in the recent past, so we need to back ourselves and go out there and be positive.
Q. Angelo, how much do you place on experience within your side in terms of having played World Cups and also just a vast amount of experience, particularly in your top order?
ANGELO MATTHEWS: Yeah, of course. It matters a lot. I mean, we’ve got so many experienced guys who have played three to four World Cups, and we have six or seven guys, and experience counts a lot when it comes to World Cup. They’ve been there. They’ve done it before. They’ve gone through all the emotions, the feelings, and they’re going to add a lot to the team. But I think, still, experience doesn’t really matter as long as you perform on the field on that day. That’s all that matters.
Q. Fitness‑wise, Lasith Malinga has been preparing for World Cup. Is he going to be fit, and have you settled on your side yet?
ANGELO MATTHEWS: The final 11 we still haven’t decided, but yeah, Lasith will definitely be playing, and he is fit to go.
Q. Your bowling has been a bit of a concern in the last few games. Have you worked on that factor?
ANGELO MATTHEWS: Yeah, I think in the recent past, especially in New Zealand, we’ve found ways of losing games more than winning games, and I think our late middle order haven’t produced good results for us, but I’m pretty sure we’re going to be ok ‑‑ we had a couple of bad practice matches, as well, but we are not too concerned because we gave guys the opportunities, and we were trying out a few things, so we are not really concerned. But I think when it comes to tomorrow, everyone needs to be on their guard and be positive.
Q. How are the bowlers faring now?
ANGELO MATTHEWS: The bowlers? Yeah, I think the conditions are quite different. Spinners have to do a holding roll here, especially in these conditions, so the fast bowlers have to try and attack. We’ve seen in the practice matches and also especially in the New Zealand series, they try and attack in the middle overs with seamers, which is a good option, and we’ve got the firepower to do that, it’s just that we need to click as a group.
Q. Angelo, you’ve played two games here earlier on. The pitch for tomorrow you’ve had a chance to have a good look at it. Thoughts? What are your expectations? And based on what you saw in those earlier two matches, how do you think it’ll play?
ANGELO MATTHEWS: It actually depends on the weather, but the wicket looks really good. It looks like a really good wicket, and there will be a lot of runs on that wicket. But it depends on the weather, and I hear that the weather is not so good for tomorrow. But hopefully it stays good, and we’ll get a good game out of it.
Q. In the recent past there have been frequent 280‑plus scores, so what is your preference? Do you still want to bat early or defend, or do you still want to chase?
ANGELO MATTHEWS: Well, obviously depending on the wicket, I think if it’s a good wicket we’ll try and bat first. If we’ve got the bowl we’ll try and stop the opposition, and if we are to bowl first, we’ve still got the experience in our batting lineup, so it doesn’t really matter for us, but I think as long as we play good cricket, our brand of cricket, we will be able to win.
Q. Sri Lanka are finalists in the last two World Cups. Do you find the seniors often going back and talking about what it took to get there in your discussions about this World Cup?
ANGELO MATTHEWS: Yeah, absolutely. I mean, as I said before, we’ve got a fairly experienced team, and they all put their thoughts on the table, how they got to the finals and all that. But past is past, we aren’t looking too far ahead, we just want to take one game at a time and perform to our best in those games.
Q. Sri Lanka played a lot of allrounders in the past series, as well. Has there been any thought to maybe playing specialists more often than you have in the past couple months?
ANGELO MATTHEWS: Yeah, we’ve talked about it. Sometimes you need the depth in the batting and the bowling, as well, so that’s why we’ve played allrounders. But sometimes depending on the wicket, depending on the opposition, you might have to play those seven batters and four specialist bowlers, so depending on the wicket and depending on the opposition, we will try and do that.
Q. Angelo, this is going to be Mahela and Kumar’s final before they retire from cricket. What does that say sort of about inspiration for your team to do well in this World Cup and give them a good farewell?
ANGELO MATTHEWS: Absolutely. The amount of service that they’ve rendered to our team has been invaluable. I think they have performed to the best of their ability, and they just want to win all the time, and they’ve contributed so much towards this team, and it’ll be a fitting farewell if we can do it for them.
Q. You mentioned not reading too much into the warm‑up matches. In terms of the one‑day series you had against New Zealand, they obviously had the better of you in that series. Do you think that counts for anything in the first match here of the World Cup?
ANGELO MATTHEWS: Not really. I mean, since the New Zealand series we’ve trained extremely hard, and we know their strengths and weaknesses, and vice versa, they know our strengths and weaknesses. So I think it’s about on that day whoever performs well, whoever scores more runs will obviously win, so we’ve got to prepare ourselves for that. We’ve got to prepare for that challenge, and hopefully we can overcome it.
Q. Compared to a normal one‑dayer, how much more pressure do you think the New Zealand team will be undertomorrow given it’s at home and it’s the opening of a World Cup?
ANGELO MATTHEWS: Absolutely. Playing at home always adds that bit more pressure, but I think they are a very good team to handle that, and they’ll obviously come in, play positive cricket, so we are expecting a very good challenge from them, and hopefully we can work our way.
Q. Do you think there’s a chance you could expose them a little bit now that they do have a lot of expectation surrounding them now?
ANGELO MATTHEWS: Yeah, of course that’s what we are here for. We just want to be out there positive. We can’t wait to get on the field tomorrow and to play positive cricket and try and beat the New Zealanders.
Q. Is there a sort of player on the New Zealand team or an element of the New Zealand team that you think is crucial to shutting them down, to stopping them?
ANGELO MATTHEWS: I think all their seven or eight batters, they’ve got a lot of depth in their batting as well as their bowling. They’ve got some good quality bowlers in their lineup, so you can’t be complacent against the New Zealand team. If you grab hold of an opportunity where you can put them down, you’ve got to do that, and you can’t just expect one guy and you can’t plan out for one person, whether in their batting or bowling lineup.
Q. You talked about the band of cricket. The last two months here, the losses, have you had to change the thinking in terms of depth of allrounders or something? What are the things you’ve learned from these last two months, and what are you going to change?
ANGELO MATTHEWS: I think more than changing around the time, I think it’s the approach that we’ve got to bring into it, and it’s the fighting spirit that we’ve got to bring into it. When you lose a few games, you tend to be a bit more down, and you’ve got to fight hard. I mean, it’s going to be a fresh series for us. It’s going to be the start of the World Cup, and we’ve put everything out there, but we’re just trying to go there and be positive.
Q. I think in the last couple of months fielding has been a bit of an issue for you guys in terms of catches, et cetera. Do you feel like you’ve made sort of the changes required going into a World Cup where fielding can be a match winner?
ANGELO MATTHEWS: Yeah, the guys are putting a lot of effort in their fielding, as well. We haven’t been consistent. We’ve fielded really well in one game and we’ve not been able to field well in the next game, so the consistency hasn’t been there, but the guys have worked really hard and hope to do well in tomorrow’s game.