Mahela Jayawardene has pipped Sri Lanka as potential contenders for the upcoming World T20, stating the Asian outfit has to believe they can end up with their hands on the trophy. He highlighted their performances in previous tournaments before admitting the first few matches will play a key role.
Sri Lanka have emerged as the talk of the town in the cricketing fraternity after pulling off major upsets one after the other in the Asia Cup to clinch an unlikely title. The side was on the brink of elimination in the first stage but went on a red-hot streak to win five consecutive matches, defeating India once and Pakistan twice in the process. The success has seen them shoot up to eighth in the latest ICC T20I rankings and within touching distance of the top five.
Former skipper of the national side Mahela Jayawardene believes such form calls for a run for the big prize in the World T20 Down Under next month from the Lions, considering they have proven to be capable of achieving big things. The islanders had entered the previous edition of the tournament in 2021 in the United Arab Emirates as a raw squad still finding their feet but had still managed to win all qualifying games by huge margins. Even though they never were favourites to make it to the knockouts, wins against Bangladesh and West Indies had provided them with a glimpse of hope ensuring they finish the tournament on a high.
"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 that no fear and no extra luggage on them, so just go out there and enjoy their cricket and play."
Sri Lanka will yet again have to go through the ordeal of the qualifiers where they have been paired with the Netherlands, Ireland and Namibia. Their campaign kicks off against the Irish at the Melbourne Cricket Ground on October 13. Led by Dasun Shanaka, the Lions must be flying in terms of confidence and given the right rhythm could achieve something special, as per Jayawardene.
"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. But I’m very confident that they are capable of doing it," the 2014 ICC World T20 winner concluded.