New Sri Lanka captain De Silva keen to play 'aggressive' cricket in Tests

The island nation is last in the World Test Championship (WTC) rankings and their worst ever home defeat to Pakistan saw a humiliating innings and 222-run defeat in their last match at the same ground in October.

Sri Lanka need more aggression on the field to re-establish their Test strength, new captain Dhananjay de Silva said ahead of the one-off red-ball match against Afghanistan on Thursday.

The island nation is last in the World Test Championship (WTC) rankings and their worst ever home defeat to Pakistan saw a humiliating innings and 222-run defeat in their last match at the same ground in October.

Australia dropped to eighth in the global Test rankings after their defeat to the West Indies on home soil last week and de Silva said his side had failed to make an impact with their cautious play.

“For the last few days, I have been telling the players the need to play aggressive cricket,” he told reporters.

“Test matches are won by taking 20 wickets so you cannot be defensive in your mindset. You have to create offensive zones.”

Sri Lanka's first Test of the year begins in Colombo on Friday and is not part of the World Test Championship, but provides a valuable opportunity to test the team's overhaul.

De Silva was one of three captains appointed last month to lead Sri Lanka's Test, ODI and T20 teams – the first time the island has had different captains for all three formats.

The middle-order batsman and utility off-spinner will take charge ahead of plans for a full tour of the year, including a three-Test series in England.

Sri Lanka have included three uncapped players in their 16-man squad as part of a generational change.

“This year is going to be a big one for us in Test match cricket,” de Silva said.

“Start with wins and then obviously the long-term goal is to improve our ranking.”

– 'An impressive player' –

Afghanistan are making a name for themselves in white-ball cricket but have had fewer chances to impress in five-day matches since gaining Test status in 2017.

Captain Hashmatullah Shaidi said that more opportunities to play five-day matches will make his team stronger.

“We have a good domestic structure,” he said.

“The good thing is that there are a lot of young players coming through. We don't get many opportunities in Test match cricket.

“More tests means we will know more about the game. “That’s the only way we can improve… It’s a good opportunity for the players here and we are ready for the game.”

Afghanistan will miss star leg spinner Rashid Khan, who is recovering after back surgery.

“I will miss Rashid a lot as captain,” Hashmatullah said.

“He is such an impressive player. It will be difficult to replace him.”

This week's Test is Afghanistan's first against Sri Lanka and eighth overall.

After this match, three ODI matches will be played in Kandy and three T20 matches will be played in Dambulla.

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