Under-performing Sri Lanka wary of unpredictable Afghans | Daily News

Under-performing Sri Lanka wary of unpredictable Afghans

Fast bowler Lasith Malinga testing out his injured left knee at the nets yesterday in Kolkata watched by fast bowling coach Champaka Ramanayake. Pix by Thusith Wijedoru, SLC

KOLKATA: Sri Lanka a far cry from the team that won the World T20 title two years ago will open their defence to retain it when they take on Afghanistan at Eden Gardens under lights today.

Angelo Mathews, the Sri Lanka Test and ODI captain now saddled with the burden of leading the team in all three formats including the T20 comparing the two sides (2014 and present) said, "We had a very settled team in the last World Cup T20 with Sanga (Kumar Sangakkara) and Mahela (Mahela Jayawardene) but now we can't talk about them all the time, we have to take up the challenge. It's just that we need the team to settle down a bit. It has not settled down in the last few months, the more it settles down, the less worries we'll have. "As defending champions we are not under any pressure because I don't think anyone will give us a chance to win this World Cup. We go as underdogs and it takes the pressure off us. We just have to go and play with a lot of freedom which we did in the last two warm-up games. We can't have the fear of losing because in a T20 you have to keep going. We just have to take that fear of failure off. We have nothing to lose just go out there and play with a lot of freedom and be positive."

Mathews assessed Afghanistan as an unpredictable side and he clearly remembers how close they came to beat Sri Lanka in the Cricket World Cup game in Dunedin in February last year. It was Mahela Jayawardene's century that saw Sri Lanka sneak through to win by four wickets after being reduced to 18-3 chasing 233.

"You can't really predict how they play. They are a very forceful team when it comes to cricket, they have a very good bowling attack and we have to be on top of our game to win against them. We can't treat them lightly at all we will take Afghanistan very seriously and try to beat them," said Mathews.

"The first game is always important when you are going into a series or a big tournament like this in a World Cup. If you can win and get the momentum on your side it will give a lot of confidence to our team and then we can take anyone on. We have to really focus on the first game and try to get that win under our belt."

One of the core issues during the Asia Cup was the constant changing of the batting order which affected the batting unit.

"We don't want to change our batting order a lot that has been our worry. We learnt a lesson in the Asia Cup by doing that. We will go for a settled batting order but at times we may have to tactically move someone up and down it all depends on the opposition as well. We will use them according to the conditions and opponents," said Mathews.

"As of now Lahiru (Thirimanne) will bat at number three. Of the batters he has batted the best. He gives that stability to the batting order which we needed. I am really glad that he has taken up the task and performed really well for us," he said.

In the two warm-up games Thirimanne top scored for Sri Lanka with 41 off 29 balls against New Zealand and 45 off 37 balls against Pakistan. His exclusion from the Asia Cup was criticized by ex-Sri Lankan stars Aravinda de Silva and Kumar Sangakkara who are currently members of the new selection panel. 

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