Cricket Expert & Columnist
Clued up in Colombo
England's plans are in place for Saturday, says Mike Atherton, but can they solve their inconsistency?
Last Updated: 24/03/11 1:49pm
There will be a lot of sympathy in the game for Michael Yardy, not least because it sounds as though he has struggled with depression before and for quite some time.
Illness such as this used to be a taboo subject but the world of sport is a more mature place these days and Yardy will receive the support he needs, from both England and Sussex.
Today's players are very well looked after in every aspect of the medical scene - whether they've torn a hamstring or are suffering from mental illness - and that can only be for the good of all.
Being open about these issues is essential when it comes to raising general awareness that depression can affect anybody, at any time.
Looking back at the time when Marcus Trescothick was battling depression, I'm sure most of the parties involved will probably admit that they didn't handle the situation in the best possible way so lessons will have been learnt.
Yardy's departure should make England stronger in the sense that he clearly couldn't be in the right frame of mind to perform to the best of his ability.
I'd choose Samit Patel, if he's fit and firing, or Adil Rashid to replace Yardy for the rest of the tournament, which for England continues in Colombo on Saturday.
England remain a dangerous side - they have shown tremendous resilience and spirit in this World Cup so far; the fact that they have had some very hard matches will be an advantage going into a high-pressure, knockout game.
But the quality of the cricket they've played has not been particularly special and for that reason alone they will start as definite underdogs against Sri Lanka.
The way Pakistan thrashed the West Indies - a side England struggled to put away - in the first quarter-final, puts the relative merits of the sides into some sort of perspective.
Chatting to one or two of the players, I get the impression that England have enjoyed the move to Sri Lanka. Those who have been here before have enjoyed touring in the past and I think they feel very comfortable in Colombo, so that's a small positive.
Andy Flower remains as meticulous as ever in his preparations, so the team will be well prepared for the challenge that lies ahead - although the threat posed by the likes of Muttiah Muralitharan and Lasith Malinga are well known.
I'm not sure that these long stretches of time in between games are necessarily advantageous - I think you can become a little bit stale - but England have tried to strike a balance between giving players ample time off and training hard.
One player who won't be stale is Jade Dernbach, although I'd be surprised if the Surrey seamer played instead of James Anderson on Saturday - unless the selectors feel Jimmy has 'gone'.
Dernbach's call up as a replacement for Ajmal Shahzad was surprising in many ways but he has obviously impressed the right people on tour in the Caribbean.
He's a bowler with a lot of variations and he has obviously improved a bit since I saw him last, when he looked a decent performer but nothing extraordinary.
Improvement can come quickly in some players, however, particularly when they are surrounded by better players in an environment conducive to personal development.
Anderson's ability to reverse swing the ball could give him the edge but it's very, very humid here in Colombo; we've also had a lot of rain overnight - and more is forecast to come - so if the outfield is quite damp and green on Saturday and there is a bit of moisture in the air, reverse swing may be less of a factor than first thought.
I'd still prefer to see Ian Bell open the innings - that hasn't changed - but Matt Prior remains a perfectly good player and there's no reason he shouldn't do well at the top of the order.
So far he hasn't - so that must be playing on his mind a little bit - and the onus will be very much on him to come up with the goods against Sri Lanka.
I've yet to commentate on Kumar Sangakkara's team in this World Cup but from what I've seen from afar, batting is their weakness.
Although Tillakaratne Dilshan and Upul Tharanga have both hit centuries, the side seems a little over-reliant on Sangakkara and Mahela Jayawardene. The rest of the order hasn't quite hit top form yet.
Of course, they have attacking wicket-taking bowlers in Muralitharan, Malinga and Ajantha Mendis and, as sub-continental sides go, they are not bad in the field.
Both sides are bound to be nervous stepping out in front of a full house on Saturday, in particular the co-hosts who will have the weight of home expectations on their shoulders.
But after a demanding Ashes winter England should be well used to performing on the big occasion; let's face it, they've been in win-or-bust mode for a week or two now.