By Champika Fernando
Sri Lanka cricket team led by Lasith Malinga left on Saturday evening for the Asia Cup–a tournament to be played in the shortest format of the game, T20, as a precursor for the World Twenty20 competition to be played in India few weeks later–hoping for its misfiring seniors to strike form.
Sri Lanka–a team in transition with a host of seniors making their exits after years of dedicated service for the country–is not the most effective side a captain would love to have going into two major competitions, but by Malinga’s own admission he has the best out of the pool of local talent available in the country.
For a man who is tough as the man who motivated them just before leaving to Bangladesh–Field Marshal Sarath Fonseka, the former Army Commander who defeated most deadliest terrorist outfit LTTE–the form does not really matter.
“It’s not really one’s form that matter but how well you handle those match-situations. Of course, our batting was a bit let down in India but all that is history. It’s a going to be a new tournament,” Malinga said ahead of team’s departure to Bangladesh.
“If you look at the team, we have several youngsters and it’s good. They will bring in lots of new energy into the side. But I hope the seniors would step in and play a leading role. This will make the life of these youngsters easy,” he added.
Sri Lanka have not been in best form in the shorter format losing four out of their last five T20 internationals. Malinga did not feature in any of them due to a knee injury which he suffered during the home series against West Indies.
Meanwhile coach Graham Ford expects an exciting tournament with a number of youngsters finding their feet at international level.
“Twenty20 cricket is always exciting. But it’s more exciting for us with a number of youngsters finding their feet at this level of the game. It’s very exciting to see how well they go against quality oppositions. In Twenty20 cricket anything is possible,’ Ford said.
Ford who was Sri Lanka’s coach during 2012-2014 periods rejoined Sri Lanka on a 45-month contract leading up to the 2019 Cricket World Cup in England also said that he hopes to build a solid base for a consistent team.
“We do have an eye on the future and developing a solid base for a team that can become very consistent with their performances at the international level. There’s lot of character and energy and a lots of talent in these youngsters,” he added.
The 15-man squad includes three fastbowlers in Lasith Malinga, Nuwan Kulasekera, Dushmantha Chameera, three spinners in Rangana Herath, Jeffrey Vandersay and Sachithra Senanayake and all-rounders in Thisara Perera, Milinda Siriwardena and Dasun Shanaka. Middle-order bat Chamara Kapugedara has been retained after a decent outing in India and will strengthen the batting department with Angelo Mathews, Tillakaratne Dilshan and Dinesh Chandimal who will be playing as specialist batsmen. With the World Twenty20 competition around the corner, Ford believes the Asia Cup will help him identify the best possible combinations to make an impact at the world tournament.
Sri Lanka are the defending champions of both these tournament would be rearing to even though on paper teams looked depleted and inexperienced.