Sri Lanka v Zimbabwe, only Test, Colombo July 13, 2017

'Goal is No. 1, but can't do that in a year' - Chandimal

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'We have to take it step by step - go to No. 6 first, then No. 5 and so on. We have a long way to go' - Dinesh Chandimal © Associated Press

Sri Lanka's new Test captain Dinesh Chandimal has hopes of taking the team to the top of the rankings, but expects the climb to be hard-fought, beginning with Friday's Test against Zimbabwe.

Having been as high as No. 2 in 2010, Sri Lanka have now slipped to No. 7 on the table, and have lost four of their five most-recent games. They have sprung most surprises in Tests, however, having unexpectedly won a series against Australia a year ago.

"My final goal is to take the team to No. 1 in the world," Chandimal said ahead of his first Test as captain. "But we can't do that in one day or one year. We have to work hard with our cricket to get there. We have young players, and we have to give them experience along the way. We have to take it step by step - go to No. 6 first, then No. 5 and so on. We have a long way to go."

The first step on that journey is to ensure a Zimbabwe tour that has already caused strife for Sri Lanka does not get any worse. Zimbabwe's top order shone in their ODI series victory but Chandimal believes the experience Sri Lanka carries in their Test attack will pose sterner questions of the opposition.

"The Zimbabwe batsmen, in particular, played very well during the five ODIs, and we can't underestimate them," Chandimal said. "But we do have Rangana Herath in our Test team, who is an extremely experienced player. We also have Dilruwan Perera. I don't think we will let Zimbabwe get into rhythm too easily. We have plans against them, and we have good spinners. So I'm hoping we can bowl well and restrict them."

With Herath leading the attack, the bowling is in good hands, and the batting appears somewhat settled, but Sri Lanka's catching has been woeful over the past year. Their Test loss to Bangladesh in March may well have been avoided had Sri Lanka taken all their chances. As a result, fielding will be a priority in the early days of his captaincy, Chandimal said.

"I've thought about how we became so weak in fielding, and tried to work out how we can fix it. I talked with the coaches as well. Even in training, if we catch 100 flat catches, 100 high catches, and 100 ground fielding balls, the pressure that we have in the game is missing. I talked to the coaches and told them that what I want is to do those drills under something similar to match pressure. Then we have a target and feed off each other's energy. In the last few days that's what we did. I think we'll be able to improve a lot in our fielding with those measures."

Though he played as a specialist batsman in the most-recent Test series, against Bangladesh, Chandimal has kept wicket in 24 of his 36 Tests. He was unwilling to commit to giving up the gloves in light of his captaincy, but suggested he may play as a specialist batsman in the short term. Limited-overs wicketkeeper Niroshan Dickwella is in the squad.

"Dickwella is in form in ODIs and is a young player, and we also have to push him forward as someone who will improve our cricket," Chandimal said. "He will probably do the job most times. But I will also consider the team's balance, and am prepared to keep. For this match he will probably keep."

Andrew Fidel Fernando is ESPNcricinfo's Sri Lanka correspondent. @andrewffernando

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • joshua7072265 on July 15, 2017, 17:44 GMT

    It is a long time off. Anyway all the best in rebuilding SL cricket.

  • U on July 15, 2017, 2:18 GMT

    The test rankings rarely reflect the best team accurately. Small point differences between teams in the ranking table are misleading. Only when there is a large point gap between first and second ranked teams, then there is some unanimity in calling the team ranked first as the best.

    Sri Lanka has never won a test match in Australia or India. Their record in Australia is terrible. How about making winning at least one test in either of those countries the first goal?

  • Prabath on July 14, 2017, 20:12 GMT

    Most of the peaople I met in life who talked big never made it! So may be he can make it. I would wait and see what his special skills are to make it happen. Everyone will be waiting you play for the next couple of months. You have to be careful of what you put out of your mouth!

  • Yohan on July 14, 2017, 17:25 GMT

    Welcome chandi to hotseat . Good you hv tht goal in mind . Lets work hard .

  • manjula on July 14, 2017, 12:46 GMT

    At least a positive attitude. If you aim higher will at least rise to next step.

  • ashwin3748344 on July 14, 2017, 10:14 GMT

    Don't know what Chandimal is trying to say...Somebody pls tell him that he is not Ricky Ponting or Virat Kohli....lol....He seems to be more funnier than Bangladesh fans.

  • DINESH on July 14, 2017, 7:54 GMT

    I predict a 3-0 against India, 3-0 against Pakistan, 2-0 against a cakewalk Bangladesh, a 3-0 against SA in SA, again 3-0 against India in India. This will bring SL closer to No.2 and a home series wins of 6-0 against England and SA will bring SL to No.1. Go Chandimal Go!

  • johanan on July 14, 2017, 5:07 GMT

    Good to see positive thinking. some are scolding him badly for no reason. please read the stats and talk and write.Chandi has scored most of the Runs in the Tests in the past years at difficult times at difficult pitches. his big 100 vs Aus here last year and the 100 vs Bng is a proof. he got a 150+ vs Ind in Galle in 2015 on a turner when all failed. what an innings that was. stop blaming him and support him. How many continuous failures Aravinda desilva, Mahela and Sanath have made in the past. the mighty SL under Arjuna in the 99 WC lost all the games apart from Zims game. even vs Zim ,to achieve the Target of 196 we lost 7 wkts .Vass score some runs with Mahanama. Our present crop is much better with fewer experience. they all have good avgs. need time to be consistent. fielding is the worse part we have to improve. Unlike the past decades ,now all teams have vedios and all the techniques to study other batsman's weak points. so Batting is tough than the past. Support Chandi pls.

  •   Nandana Pathirana on July 14, 2017, 4:03 GMT

    It is not only Chandimal failed, but almost all players except openers. Some people have a permanent grudge against him for no apparent reason. There is no one else either. He already come out with some good analysis, which Angelo lacked totally.

  • Alex on July 14, 2017, 3:20 GMT

    Just beat india in one Test , watch your status grow. Can you ? i doubt it. Srilanka shooting blanks in bowling. Indian can play herath so there is no one in srilanka can take 20 wickets.

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