Colombo: Sri Lanka skipper Angelo Mathews on Thursday blamed fitness issues for the team's disastrous England tour, but said he hoped to use the advantage of home conditions against a tough Australian side.
Mathews returned home after losing the Test series 2-0, the five match ODI series 3-0 (with one tie and one no result) and also conceding the only T20 in chilly English conditions.
"Fitness was a big issue, as the captain I am disappointed with our battling, bowling and fielding," Mathews told reporters in Colombo. "We have to improve in all departments."
However, he thanked loyal local fans for not mocking them for their dismal performance.
"From the officials at the airport (in Colombo) to others we met on the way, they have been very supportive at a time when we are down," he said. "This support means a lot to us."
Asked about preparations for the upcoming home series against Australia, Mathews said he wanted to address fitness issues plaguing the young team which saw five bowlers suffer injuries during the England tour. Mathews himself was injured.
He could not say how long the team would require to fully recover from the void created after the retirement of legends including Kumar Sangakkara and Mahela Jayawardene.
"It will take a bit of time. I have been saying that for the past few months as well," Mathews said.
"But we are doing the right things at the moment. We are not winning games, but we are seeing improvements day by day."
His comments come with the Australian team set to arrive on Saturday in Sri Lanka, where they are due to play three Tests, five ODI matches and two T20 games.
Mathews said the Australian team was "tough", but he hoped the home side advantage in sultry conditions would help local players.
"It (the series) is in our home conditions, but we have to prepare well and prepare for a tough challenge, and to overcome the tough Australia side we have to play our best cricket," he said.
But he warned against raising expectations too high, noting that Australia had done well in Sri Lanka during their 2011 tour when they won the Tests 1-0 and also claimed victory in the ODI series 3-2.