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smile Atapattu in line for swift comeback - 10-25-2007, 05:51 PM

Sri Lanka in Australia, 2007-08
Jenny Thompson in Adelaide
October 25, 2007


Marvan Atapattu is set to complete a remarkable return for Sri Lanka after an eight-month absence by playing against a Chairman's XI in Adelaide on Saturday. Atapattu initially ruled himself out of the Australia tour following selection disputes which have rumbled since the World Cup in March, but he was finally persuaded to join the party a week before the team flew out.

Government intervention also helped Atapattu's inclusion and the new coach Trevor Bayliss was bemused by the turn of events. "One minute he was in, the next he wasn't and now he is, so ... that's about all I know," he said. "The system is a little different to what I'm used to, that's for sure.

"What we've said all along is whatever we get dealt with, whatever barriers are put up, we will put up with that and play the game as best as we possibly can. He's been with the squad for the last week or so and he's fitted in very well. We're looking forward to a good tour from him, as well."

As Atapattu hasn't played a Test since 2005, he is likely to feature in both warm-up matches as Sri Lanka assess him ahead of the first Test in Brisbane from November 8. His return has been welcomed by his captain Mahela Jayawardene.

"He is experienced and has done so well for Sri Lanka that you always welcome a guy like that," he said. "It all depends on how keen and committed he is to the team."

Problems arose during the World Cup when he was overlooked for every match and he was then left out of the one-day side for the series against Pakistan. Atapattu made himself unavailable for the Bangladesh Tests in July, saying he was not mentally prepared for Test cricket. Instead he played for the English side Lashings.

He was not expected to go to Australia until the sports minister Gamini Lokuge and Sri Lanka's chief executive Duleep Mendis intervened at the 11th hour. If he wasn't mentally ready for Tests against Bangladesh, then he has a stiff challenge ahead: Australia in Australia is never an easy proposition.

Jenny Thompson is an associate editor at Cricinfo

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