Dasun Shanaka could not help but be proud of what his team had achieved at the Asia Cup, winning the tournament as underdogs and wasn't shy to admit the same by acknowledging his country's long wait for the trophy. He went on to discuss the upcoming T20 World Cup and Sri Lanka's chances at the same.
Sri Lanka had a long shot of ending up as the victors of the Asia Cup, with India and Pakistan being the firm favourites for the tournament. The same beliefs were only reinforced after the islanders fell to a humiliating defeat against Afghanistan and were on the brink of getting knocked out early before a desperate run chase helped them defeat Bangladesh and advance to the Super Four stage.
Thus gifted with a second lease, the Lankans came into their own in the second half of the competition and went on a red-hot streak, defeating Afghanistan and India before demolishing Pakistan in the final group stage game. Yet, somehow, the Men in Green remained the bookmakers' pick in the title clash albeit that notion was soon to be dismissed. A 23-run victory in the final on Sunday in Dubai saw the Lions clinch their sixth Asia Cup and the first under emerging skipper Dasun Shanaka.
"The players have been playing good cricket for two, three years but the winning factor was not there," he said after Sri Lanka's triumph as quoted by NDTV.
The stars of the final were Bhanuka Rajapaksa and Wanindu Hasaranga. While the former belted 71 runs off 45 deliveries when his team was 58/5 to take them to 170, Hasaranga's spin masterclass produced figures of 3/27 in his four overs and ensured the opponents tumbled for 147. The duo are 30 and 25 years old respectively, as are the other core members of this winning team ensuring they have a bright future ahead.
"This will be a real good turnaround in our cricket. This lot (of players) will continue for another five, six years, so that will be a very good sign for us," Shanaka stated.
This was Sri Lanka's first Asia Cup title since 2014, the same year they had won the World T20. Since, they have failed to make a strong impression in any multi-nation tournament but the latest victory has come at a time when the country has been seeking inspiration embroiled in political and economic crisis.
"They were waiting for it for so long, especially the final," Shanaka told reporters. "We should dedicate this win to the whole nation."
The Lankan team will now head Down Under where they begin their World T20 qualifiers campaign against Namibiaon October 16.
"We played the qualifiers last year as well. We have the same set-up for the last three, four years and last two years have been good for us. The momentum is there and winning the Asia Cup really helps going ahead to the World Cup. Qualifiers will really help because we will play in the conditions before the main tournament happens, so it will be good for us," Shanka concluded.