Dasun Shanaka’s Sri Lanka are confident of their T20 World Cup prospects in Australia despite missing out on direct entry into the main draw.
The island nation won the Asia Cup T20 tournament last month after getting past cricket giants India and then Pakistan in the final in the UAE.
The unlikely victory brought much-needed joy to cricket-mad Sri Lanka after an economic crisis caused months of food and fuel shortages.
The players received a heroes’ welcome after returning from the Asia Cup and their triumph brought the country together after months of economic misery.
“The fact that everybody’s behind us, the nation is behind us, and we’re out there trying to bring a smile back to everybody’s faces, for me it’s a positive,” said coach Chris Silverwood. “Something we can use as energy, and something we have used as energy in the dressing room already.”
The 2014 T20 World Cup winners will need to get through a preliminary round, starting with Namibia on Sunday, to meet the heavyweights in the Super 12 stage.
Skipper Shanaka said two warm-up and three qualifying matches in Australia will put his side at an advantage.
“We will be able to read the conditions and the wickets going into the Super 12,” he told reporters.
It will be the second consecutive World Cup that Sri Lanka have to play in the first round, where they will be expected to cruise through against Namibia, the UAE and the Netherlands.
“We have a couple of warm-up games before the Namibia game,” said Silverwood. “We’ll play match scenarios among ourselves before that to make sure we can control the environment that we’re training in.
“There’s the dimensions of the grounds in Australia – they have some big grounds – we’ll have to learn to cope with them.
“We have to make sure we get the distance right off the boundary to cut the angles down and get the guys used to doing that.”
Fast bowlers Dushmantha Chameera and Lahiru Kumara return from injuries to bolster the squad that won the Asia Cup.
“With the bowling we’re still working on yorkers, to make sure we can be successful on Australian wickets, to make sure we have the skills to back our plans up,” said Silverwood.
Hard-hitter Bhanuka Rajapaksa remains their main weapon in the middle order while Kusal Mendis and Shanaka add experience to the batting.
Wanindu Hasaranga leads the spin charge with Maheesh Theekshana and Jeffrey Vandersay for company.
Dilshan Madushanka and Pramod Madushan are two new welcome additions to the pace battery and made their presence felt during their hammering of Pakistan in the Asia Cup final.
© Agence France-Presse