Colombo [Sri Lanka], October 1 (ANI): In a massive change of fortunes, confidence has replaced hopes for Sri Lanka as they leave for ICC T20 World Cup 2022 to be held in October-November in Australia after their sixth Asia Cup triumph in September, with skipper Dasun Shanaka saying that confidence levels in the team are higher than they were before the 2021 edition of the tournament.
During the last year, Shanaka had said around this time, "If our guys perform to their strengths I feel they can go a long way in this tournament. But the tournament did not go well for them. Though they made it to the round of 12 after a brilliant round one, they could not progress beyond that.
But now, after their Asia Cup win, there is a sense of belief.
"If we make the right decisions on the day and execute our plans, I am certain we can come out victorious. The confidence level is definitely higher [than at the last World Cup], but my concern has always been the process. Even at the last World Cup, I felt we had the talent to at least make the semi-finals. The important thing is your ability to play and deliver on the day," ESPNCricinfo quoted Shanaka as saying in a press interaction before Sri Lanka's departure to Australia.
SL is heading Down Under two weeks before their opening match against Namibia on October 16. Before this in the last week of September, Sri Lanka was at a skills-intensive camp.
This extra game time can help in Australian conditions. Head coach Chris Silverwood, who had not even dreamt of a start as memorable as this while taking charge around six months ago, said, "With the bowling we are 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. We have a couple of warm-up games before the Namibia game. We will play match scenarios amongst ourselves before that to make sure we can control the environment that we are training in."
"We are actually very specific about what we are trying to train. For example, we did a Super Over up in Kandy, which is all in good fun, but it highlights where it can be a bit chaotic in the Super Over. It happens very quickly, and we have to make sure we keep a level head."
"Then the dimensions of the grounds in Australia - they have some big grounds - we will 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."
A very important step towards success is identifying areas which need improvement. Though Sri Lanka defended a total in Asia Cup, it is not exactly their strongest point.
"There is always going to be areas to improve - I think setting totals, something we did really well in the final [of the Asia Cup] but something we have not done a great deal of. So it is something we are going to have to think of," said the coach.
Sri Lanka is going to a major tournament with a lot of genuine excitement and optimism, though their success in Asia Cup has raised expectations from them.
"I tend to look at it differently. There are expectations obviously back here at home in Sri Lanka. But I think the energy that we are gaining off the fans is superb, and I think the boys are feeling it. I think we can use that as a real positive. The fact that everybody's behind us, the nation is behind us, and we are out there trying to bring a smile back to everybody's faces, for me it is positive. Something we can use as energy, and something we have used as energy in the dressing room already," said Silverwood.
Shanaka however feels that Asia Cup is a thing of past and there is a need to reset and refocus on the fundamentals that helped them attain success.
"Winning the Asia Cup was good, but it's just one tournament. We are not thinking about that anymore, that is in the past. Because if we keep focusing on that then we cannot look forward and perform as we need to."
"In the camp [in Kandy] every player put in a good effort. I was worried that there would be some guys who would be a bit relaxed after winning the Asia Cup, but it was not like that. Everyone practiced with even more intensity than usual, and I am confident that we can put in good performances at the World Cup," added the skipper.
Among the ones present at the camp were pacers Dushmantha Chameera and Lahiru Kumara and a young Dilshan Madushanka, with each pacer capable of bowling at 140 kmph. Though fitness has been an issue for the first two, Shanaka confirmed that they did fine in the camp.
"Both Lahiru and Dushmantha were a part of our camp, and they both managed to complete their bowling quotas without an issue. I think they are well prepared ahead of the World Cup," said the skipper.
Coach Silverwood is also happy with the camaraderie between the players and their "willingness to "learn, adapt and try new things".
"I hear a lot of people talking about how together the guys are and you can really feel that from the inside as well," he concluded.
Sri Lanka T20 WC squad: Dasun Shanaka (c), Danushka Gunathilaka, Pathum Nissanka, Kusal Mendis, Charith Asalanka, Bhanuka Rajapaksa, Dhananjaya de Silva, Wanindu Hasaranga, Maheesh Theekshana, Jeffrey Vandersay, Chamika Karunaratne, Dushmantha Chameera (subject to fitness), Lahiru Kumara (subject to fitness), Dilshan Madushanka, Pramod Madushan. Standby Players: Ashen Bandara, Praveen Jayawickrema, Dinesh Chandimal, Binura Fernando, Nuwanidu Fernando. (ANI)