Saturday Oct 23, 2021
SHARJAH: Sri Lanka start their T20 World Cup Super 12 campaign on Sunday with skipper Dasun Shanaka insisting "every team has to look at us" after an impressive run through qualifying.
Despite a build-up dogged by controversy and indifferent form, the 2014 champions are suddenly being mentioned as potential title winners.
Their well-balanced side, boasting two express fast bowlers, a mystery spinner and a cross-section of reliable run-getters, stormed through the first round.
"It's a simple message. The boys have done well, and they have shown their skills, and they have shown what they really can do in this tournament," said Shanaka on Saturday.
"They have made their mark in this tournament already, so every team has to have a close look at them, so it's really good for us."
The performances back up his confidence.
They dismissed Namibia for 96, Ireland for 101 and then the Netherlands for just 44.
Dushmantha Chameera and Lahiru Kumara have rattled batsmen with raw pace despite the sluggish wickets of the Gulf.
Spinner Maheesh Theekshana, the 21-year-old off-break bowler who only made his international debut, has already left batsmen bamboozled.
He goes into the second round with seven wickets to his name.
Meanwhile, Wanindu Hasaranga and Pathum Nissanka both hit half-centuries against Ireland to rescue their team from a perilous 8-3 at one stage.
It's a far cry from the team's build-up to the event.
Kusal Mendis, opener Danushka Gunathilaka and wicketkeeper Niroshan Dickwella were all banned for a year for breaching the team's coronavirus bubble in England in July.
Ranked 10 in the world, they arrived in the Gulf with just three wins and nine defeats in 12 T20 matches in 2021.
That included a series of whitewashes against England and South Africa.
Shanaka hailed the dressing room influence of former skipper and now team mentor Mahela Jayawardene.
Some media reports claimed that Jayawardene was to leave the team ahead of the Super 12s to return home to see his family.
Jayawardene said he had spent "135 days in quarantine and bubbles since June" but would still carry out his role with the squad by distance.
"It's a real good investment to the boys, mostly to the youngsters. They gained a lot of experience from him and a lot of advice," said Shanaka.
"It makes it easier for me as a captain, as well, so it's been really good this far."
On Sunday, Sri Lanka face Bangladesh who also had to qualify for the Super 12.
They lost their opener by six runs to Scotland before beating Oman and Papua New Guinea.
Shakib Al Hasan has been key for Bangladesh with 20 runs and taking 2-17 against the Scots, hitting 42 and claiming 3-28 against co-hosts Oman and then making 46 and taking 4-9 against PNG.
Coach Russell Domingo was relieved to see Bangladesh playing their second-round matches in the afternoon and not the crushing humidity of the evening.
"I think the scheduling, the way it's worked, the 2:00 pm start suits us big time," he said.
"It takes the dew out of the equation. I know a lot of other teams are very focused on the dew.
"With us playing all our games at 2pm is not in the equation for us. I think our spinners will come very much into the competition."
For all of Geo.tv's latest news, updates and analysis of the T20 World Cup 2021, visit: https://www.geo.tv/t20-worldcup-2021/