Coach Graham Ford has acknowledged the importance of successfully combating Pakistan spinner Saeed Ajmal, as Sri Lanka prepare for a testing tour of the United Arab Emirates later this year.
Ajmal was prolific against the Sri Lankans during 2011’s series in the same region, clinching 18 wickets in Test cricket and 11 in ODIs. Recently, too, the slow bowler was key to a Test series draw and limited-overs success against South Africa.
“I’ve been involved only in one series with him and we played him quite well in that. Certainly one or two of our players play him pretty well. Most batsmen in the world do have problems with him,” said Ford.
“It’s not like you are going to dominate him or he is an easy option. He is a factor in any series that he plays but we did cope with him last time around. Obviously more players are comfortable than others against him.
“He is more successful in the UAE and the challenge is there. Any bowler that turns the ball in both directions and is difficult to read is a very effective man to have in your side. Added to the fact that he’s got the disguise and the ability to turn the ball both ways is that he has got fantastic control.”
The visitors will be without former captain and stalwart batsman Mahela Jayawardene, who was not considered due to personal reasons. The veteran Kumar Sangakkara and Tillakaratne Dilshan, meanwhile, have been retained.
“You can’t say enough about Mahela’s contribution. He is such an important person in the group. He is brilliant as a player, he sets the tone and he is a great example for the youngsters. His knowledge of the game is just unbelievable. I’ve learnt a huge amount from him,” added Ford.
“Not having him around is a bit of a challenge but we’ve gone through periods without him before when he’s had injury problems and we managed pretty well. It’s something that the team is learning to adjust to and that’s something that they will have to in the future be able to do – go and play and win without him.”
Pakistan and Sri Lanka will meet for two Twenty20 Internationals, five ODIs and three Tests between 8 December and 24 January.