South Africa, Dec 14: Winless in their last 14 tests and now greeted by a pitch that is expected to heavily favor the home side, the issue of unpaid salaries has slipped down on the list of priorities for Sri Lanka's cricketers ahead of their first test in South Africa.
Captain Tillakaratne Dilshan said his players would instead concentrate on cricket—and trying to win a test in South Africa for the first time—as they wait for their first pay check in nine months.
Sri Lanka's players had still not been paid by Wednesday after promises from their national board that they would receive at least part payment before the test starts on Thursday.
There has been no sign of anger from Sri Lanka's cricketers over the missed payments, with Dilshan preferring to focus on a first away series in South Africa in nine years. He expected at least 50 percent of the money owed from as far back as April to now be paid on Friday, he said.
“We are focused on cricket now,” he said. “We just keep it to management to handle everything. At the moment we are worried about cricket. I can't follow this (the unpaid salaries).”
Back in Sri Lanka, Sports Ministry Secretary Udaya Seneviratne said Wednesday that arrangements to pay back the salaries had now been made.
Looking ahead to the match, Dilshan said the surface at SuperSport Park was the greenest pitch he'd ever seen in South Africa. It's likely to play into the hands of the hosts' pace-dominated bowling attack and make a tough tour for Sri Lanka even tougher.
“The pitch looks good for the fast bowlers,” Dilshan said. His understatement drew laughs from reporters—and then him. The wicket is so green, South Africa captain Graeme Smith had said earlier, that the groundsman might be on the verge of panic just 24 hours ahead of the start of the match.
“We've played before in Centurion but this is a totally different wicket,” Dilshan added. “The fast bowlers can really enjoy this wicket. Whatever wicket is given to us, we will try to play our best cricket ... We will try to take the challenge.”
The odds seem to be stacked against the tourists, however.
Sri Lanka has never won a test in seven previous matches in South Africa, while its winless run—which stretches back to 2010 and Muttiah Muralitharan's farewell test—has been compounded by the team's recent injury woes.
“We have to believe that everyone can do their job for the team,” Dilshan said. “We heard everyone say South Africa is favorite for this series, but if we can play our brand of cricket we can beat any team in any conditions.”
Key batsman Kumar Sangakkara was due to bat in the nets later on Wednesday, as the former captain attempted to prove his fitness after splitting the webbing on his right hand in a warmup match over the weekend.
Sangakkara's absence would be another blow in a catalog of injury problems for Sri Lanka, which lost fast bowler Nuwan Pradeep for the entire tour to a torn hamstring in the same warmup game.
Nuwan was the fifth Sri Lanka fast bowler to miss out on the three-test series because of injury.