Colombo: First, it was Englandâ€™s all-rounder Michael Yardy quit because of depression. Now Sri Lanka are starting to feel the pressure as their quarterfinal looms on Saturday.
What it all suggests is that England's resources are suffering from a long tour while Sri Lanka are starting to worry about how one mistake can cost them a semi-final place next Tuesday. And so much that is riding on a variety of players in both sides.
Rumours not all was well in the England camp surfaced on Wednesday when it was suggested a player had been flown home. There was no name, no reason and no comment when the question was levelled at Matt Prior. He gave a good enough impression of being a politician trying to duck the latest scandal.
No one can keep a good story under wraps for that long and when the news finally broke around midnight on Wednesday, there was a feeling of why has it taken so long for Englandâ€™s management to admit there was a problem with a player. Too much off the field talk and not enough about the game didnâ€™t quite seem the way to go about preparing for a critical World Cup game such as a quarterfinal.
The story has a familiar haunting touch to it. England opener Marcus Trescothick went through a period where he was scared to leave for the airport on an overseas trip and do his best. It became so bad, there were rumours of an illness which affected his judgement.
Yardyâ€™s comments in his statement has a theme with a new brand name, depression.
â€œLeaving at this stage of the World Cup campaign was a very difficult decision to make,â€ he said in his statement. â€œI felt it was the only sensible option for me and I wanted to be honest about the reason behind that decision. I would like to wish the squad all the very best ahead of the game on Saturday.
â€œI would appreciate some privacy over the coming weeks while I spend time with family and close friends ahead of what I hope will be a successful season for Sussex.â€
With typical Po-faced explanation, England Cricket Board [ECB] released their own statement where they said the decision to send Yardy home was taken after "close consultation with the England medical team . . . as he seeks to overcome an illness he has been managing for a prolonged period".
Are tours of this nature too long? Stress related illness are thought to be part of the modern touring programme and why the â€œburnout factorâ€ is being studied by sports psychologists. Graeme Swann has been critical of Englandâ€™s current scheduled and the county season looms as well.
Yet, the way Mahela Jayawardene put it, Sri Lanka are preparing for this game as they would for any game of this nature. It is business as usual as they work out their strategies to put a fit and competitive side in the field for Saturdayâ€™s game.
There has been some concern about Muttiah Muralitharan as he did not bowl in the nets on Wednesday, and given the day off Thursday. He will be back in action Friday.
On Thursday, the team trained late in the afternoon and also under lights. This is as much about testing the dew conditions this time of year in Colombo, which is at sea level than that of Pallekele, in the hill country near Kandy, and where there is a certain amount of heavy dew.
â€œLook, it has been a long tournament and it is a tough one,â€ Jayawardene said. â€œIt is about keeping the mind sharp and our fitness levels as well. Also, we have had a break since the New Zealand game and that has also helped us in our preparation.
â€œThere is always pressure on you to win matches, that's with every team,â€ he added. â€œI think we have the same kind of pressure. For us it has been a simple theory just take one game at a time and just keep things under control. We have executed that game plan up to the group stages. Now we know that for knockouts we just need to focus on individual performances and game plans, and not worry about anything beyond that. Just keep it simple.â€
Ravi Bopara the England allrounder, who chatted to the media on Thursday, said he was quite relaxed about how he felt and dealing with the travelling and long tour syndrome. â€œLook, the way I handle things isn't the only way to deal with it. You have players like Colly (Paul Collingwood), who have been touring for many years. They go out and play golf, and do other such activities. I think you need to do things like that as a cricketer anyway to get your mind away from all the other external stuff,â€ he said. â€œEveryone's got their own way of dealing with it.â€
He admitted that while the team had a psychologist to help players, he had no need to visit one. â€œI haven't had to speak to the psychologist about any of my problems so I wouldn't have a clue. It is reassuring, though, knowing that someone is there if you do need to open up to someone.â€
He said he enjoys playing against Sri Lanka as he knows their two main players â€“ Kumar Sangakkara and Mahela Jayawardene -from playing against them in the IPL.
â€œSo we're quite good mates, but also they are a tough opposition,â€ he admitted. â€œPlaying in that first World Cup then you get a feeling and every time you play against them again those feelings come back so I'm getting those feelings at the moment.â€
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