Mahela urges Shanaka’s men to aim for top prize

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Former Sri Lanka captain Mahela Jayawardene urged Dasun Shanaka’s men to aim for the top prize at the T20 World Cup 2022 in Australia, saying they should not think of anything else after having gained momentum at the Asia Cup.

Mahela said he believes Sri Lanka has it in them to play fearless cricket and play without any burden of expectation despite having won the Asia Cup 2022 in the UAE in September.

Sri Lanka pulled off a big surprise by rallying against the odds to win the Asia Cup, which was seen as a major tune-up for the T20 World Cup. Not many gave Sri Lanka a chance as the build-up to the continental tournament was only focused on India and Pakistan, but the islanders defeated both the big names in Asian cricket to qualify for the final.

Sri Lanka fought back from behind at every stage of the competition, finding new heroes in every outing under an inspired and calm leader in Shanaka. Sri Lanka were hammered by Afghanistan in their Asia Cup opener and they qualified for the Super 4 after beating Bangladesh in a thriller. Sri Lanka were spotless in the Super 4 stage and defeated Pakistan in the big final, recovering from 58 for 5.

Sri Lanka may have won only 2 out of 11 matches in bilateral series since the last T20 World Cup, but Jayawardene believes that the Asia Cup triumph should give the confidence to aim for the title in Australia. The Asia Cup champions, like last year, will have to play Round 1 and qualify for the Super 12 stage.

“If they take the confidence of what they achieved in the last (T20) World Cup and then now at the Asia Cup, I think they shouldn’t be looking at anything other than going all the way and winning the World Cup,” Jayawardene told the ICC.

“I mean that’s the attitude to have and this is a group I feel that will play with no fear and no extra luggage on them either; so, just go out there and enjoy their cricket and play.”

Jayawardene highlighted the underdog tag that Sri Lanka carried into the Asia Cup and said the islanders had the talent to challenge big names, but only needed the confidence to get going.

The former captain also stressed that the way Sri Lanka start the T20 World Cup campaign and how they adapt to the conditions Down Under will play a key role in how far they go in the tournament.

“The start of the World Cup is going to be very crucial for them as they need to get the momentum and get themselves adjusted to the conditions,” Jayawardena noted. “But I’m very confident that they are capable of doing it.”

(Agencies)