Dubai: Sri Lanka, five-time winners of the Asia Cup, are hoping to do one better by emerging as the champions of the 14th edition of the Asia Cup starting on September 15 at the Dubai International stadium. They start their mission by taking on Bangladesh in the first match here.
Speaking about his team’s chances to emerge as the winners, Sri Lankan team skipper Angelo Mathews said: “My team is a blend of youth and experience and I have got the best team. We have got the skill and potential to overcome any team on our day, and we are looking to the challenges ahead.”
In a crucial blow to the team on Monday, Test captain Dinesh Chandimal was withdrawn from the 16-member Asia Cup squad after sustaining an injury during a recent domestic Twenty20 tournament, the board said.
The 28-year-old batsman needed more time to recover from the finger injury, Sri Lanka Cricket (SLC) said in a statement. He was replaced by wicketkeeper and batsman Niroshan Dickwella for the event.
Sri Lanka will train only from Wednesday at the ICC Academy ground. Their opponents Bangladesh have arrived first and practised at the academy.
Sri Lanka had won the Asia Cup in 2014 when it was played as a 50-over One Day International format. Though the islanders as a team haven’t been performing at their best for nearly a year, their recent show against South Africa has given them the confidence.
Having lost the first three One Day Internationals to the Proteas, they staged a comeback to win the next two and also the one-off T20 International to prove that they are a dangerous team in one-day cricket.
Mathews admits candidly that the team hasn’t fared well of late but the team’s performance against South Africa may take them a long way. “It is a fact we haven’t won a series for some time but the way we finished against South Africa was a confidence booster.”
Sri Lankan fans, meanwhile, are gung-ho over the comeback of their experienced pacer Lasith Malinga. Though he last played for Sri Lanka in a ODI an year ago, Mathews believes that Malinga will be able to produce his match-winning spells during the Asia Cup. Sri Lankan selectors are also trying out Malinga to find out whether he will be good enough for the 2019 World Cup too.
In his last One Day International in UAE at Abu Dhabi’s Zayed Stadium in 2013, he produced a haul of four for 57 to ensure a two-wicket win over Pakistan.
Sri Lanka will rely on young Kusal Mendis to return to form during the Asia Cup and also expect their new pacer Kasun Rajitha to produce the breakthroughs. Though he has only played in one ODI so far against South Africa last month, he had come to the limelight through a deadly spell against India in a three-day match at the Khettarama wicket in 2015 by dismissing Shikhar Dhawan, Virat Kohli and Rohit Sharma in a single spell and also taking the prize wicket of Kohli in the second innings.
Mathews feels that his team will have to keep the errors to a minimum to be successful in a tournament that is short. As a start, he wants Sri Lanka to get off on the right note against Bangladesh on September 15 and against Afghanistan on September 17 to reach the Super Four stage.