Galle - Sri Lanka and the West Indies will
look to offload past baggage and begin a new era with fresh young talent when a
two-Test series starts in Galle on Wednesday.
Sri Lanka are rebuilding following the
retirement of their batting greats, Mahela Jayawardena and Kumar Sangakkara,
within the space of a year.
The West Indies, already hit by the
reluctance of senior pros like Chris Gayle and Dwayne Bravo to play Test
cricket, faced further turmoil when coach Phil Simmons was stood down for the
tour for speaking out against his board's selection policies.
Former fast bowler and selector Eldine
Baptiste, who will serve as interim coach for the tour, will try to ease
newly-appointed Test captain Jason Holder into the role.
Holder, a 23-year-old all-rounder who has
played just eight Tests, was a surprise choice to replace the seasoned Denesh
Ramdin as captain.
"We have a very young team and a young
captain," Baptiste said. "My job is to keep the team focused for the
The West Indies are searching for their
maiden Test win on Sri Lankan soil, where they have played nine matches since
1993 - losing five and drawing the other four.
Both teams will look to bounce back after a
lacklustre year. The West Indians lost to South Africa and Australia, while the
home series against England was drawn 1-1.
Angelo Mathews' Sri Lanka crashed to a 2-0
series defeat in New Zealand and lost home series to Pakistan and India by
identical 2-1 margins.
Like their rivals, Sri Lanka too have an
interim coach in Jerome Jayaratne, who was given charge of the team after
Marvan Atapattu resigned in the wake of the defeat against India.
Jayaratne, who did not play international
cricket but made his mark as head of the Sri Lankan board's coaching
department, has already described Mathews' boys as the "worst fielding
side in Asia".
He refused to take victory for granted
against the young touring side.
"I would like to believe that we have
a better chance of getting back to winning ways, but I definitely won't
underestimate them," he said.
Only two players from either side have
played more than 50 Tests - Mathews and Rangana Herath for Sri Lanka and
batsman Marlon Samuels and Ramdin for the West Indies.
Herath, the 37-year-old left-arm spinner,
could prove to be the difference when the first Test starts at the picturesque
Galle International Stadium, a venue that traditionally favours spin.
Herath took seven for 48 against India in
August, helping Sri Lanka bounce back to win that Test by 63 runs.
In June Pakistani spin twins Yasir Shar and
Zulfiqar Babar combined to grab 13 wickets between them as Sri Lanka suffered a
10-wicket defeat at the same venue.
In the absence of star spinner Sunil
Narine, who was not picked for the Tests, the West Indies will rely on
leg-break bowler Devendra Bishoo, who has claimed 50 wickets in 13 Tests so
Sri Lanka's batting in the absence of
Jayawardene and Sangakkara will revolve around skipper Mathews, who hit three
centuries in the home Tests against Pakistan and India.
Sri Lanka (from) - Angelo Mathews (capt), Lahiru Thirmanne, Dimuth Karunaratne, Kaushal Silva, Dinesh Chandimal, Rangana Herath, Dhammika Prasad, Kusal Perera, Dushmantha Chameera, Nuwan Pradeep, Tharindu Kaushal, Suranga Lakmal, Dilruwan Perera, Milinda Siriwardena, Kusal Mendis.
West Indies (from) - Jason Holder (capt), Kraig Brathwaite, Jermaine Blackwood, Carlos Brathwaite, Devendra Bishoo, Darren Bravo, Rajendra Chandrika, Shane Dowrich, Shannon Gabriel, Shai Hope, Denesh Ramdin, Kemar Roach, Marlon Samuels, Jerome Taylor, Jomel Warrican.