ICC Hall of Famer Mahela Jayawardena believes Sri Lanka's stunning triumph at the Asia Cup has changed expectations and the island nation should be zeroed in on winning the ICC Men’s T20 World Cup starting in October.
Jayawardena discussed with great pride his former's side recent transformation with host Sanjana Ganesan on the latest episode of The ICC Review.
“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,” Jayawardena said on The ICC Review.
“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 either so just go out there and enjoy their cricket and play.
“They did well in Australia in November when they toured in the T20s. They really performed well. So if they take all that into account, I think they are in a good space now.”
Things didn't look great for Sri Lanka when they lost their opening match of the Asia Cup to Afghanistan, but five consecutive wins – including one upset triumph over India and two quality victories against Pakistan – helped catapult Dasun Shanaka's side to success at the six-team competition.
Jayawardena singled out the performance of star all-rounder Wanindu Hasaranga for his efforts in claiming the Player of the Tournament award and saved special praise for the leadership provided by Shanaka.
But the former Sri Lanka skipper said it was an even performance from the squad that ultimately lifted them to the title, and provided plenty of joy to the people back home who are still battling with the ongoing economic crisis currently engulfing the country.
“I don’t think anyone gave them the chance of winning the tournament, but personally, I knew they had the capabilities,” Jayawardena said.
“They were knocking on the door. Just they needed that confidence I think. You know once they got that, they just played some brilliant cricket. I think there were no superstars, it was a team effort. Everyone chipped in.
“The people here were starving for excitement for some time and usually, it is the cricket team who brings that for them but we had the netball team winning the Asian Netball Championship on the same day which was brilliant for them. And it was a great sporting day for all of us. I think everyone enjoyed it and just sitting and watching was just brilliant. I really thoroughly enjoyed (both) the finals.”
Sri Lanka have just two warm-up games in Melbourne prior to their opening clash at the T20 World Cup, where they take on Namibia in a first-round match in Geelong.
Sri Lanka starts their T20 World Cup campaign away from the competition favourites in the round one against Namibia, Netherlands and UAE prior to the Super 12 stage of the event, which Jayawardena says could be an advantage.
“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.”