Sri Lanka's captain Wanindu Hasaranga
Sri Lanka's captain Wanindu Hasaranga addresses a press conference on the eve of their first Twenty20 cricket match against Zimbabwe at the R. Premadasa Stadium in Colombo on January 13, 2024. Image Credit: AFP

Comombo: Sri Lanka needs to lift its game on fielding to have a shot at this year's T20 World Cup title, newly installed short-format captain Wanindu Hasaranga said Saturday.

Hasaranga is riding high after a career-best 7-19 against Zimbabwe during Thursday's ODI decider and will be making his debut as skipper on Sunday as the 20-over leg of the tour begins.

Poor fielding has been a running problem for the Sri Lankans in white-ball cricket, with 16 dropped catches at last year's one-day World Cup in India confining them to a second-last place finish on the points table.

"I have told the team at the outset that fielding will be very important," he told reporters.

"No matter how well you bat or bowl, if you don't field well then you'll struggle to make it to the side. Fielding is non-negotiable," he added.

"We have another five months for the World Cup... Fielding is the easiest way we can improve our cricket and it makes a lot of difference between winning and losing in T20 cricket."

Hasaranga returned to internationals on Thursday for the first time in six months following a hamstring injury, making a splash with a new ODI bowling record for R. Premadasa Stadium in Colombo.

Sri Lanka have recalled veteran Angelo Mathews into the squad and he is expected to play Sunday in his first T20 since March 2021.

Opening batsman Pathum Nissanka was also back at training having missed the ODI series due to illness.

All three T20 matches against Zimbabwe will take place in Colombo with the series concluding on January 18.

Sri Lanka will then welcome Afghanistan for a one-off Test and six white-ball matches ahead of June's World Cup, jointly hosted by the United States and West Indies.

'Really heartbreaking' 

Zimbabwe will be the sole full member of the International Cricket Council to miss this year's tournament after a shock defeat to Uganda during the qualifiers.

"It's really heartbreaking not just for me and cricketers but for the whole nation as well," Zimbabwe captain Sikandar Raza told reporters.

"We are desperately trying to turn things around. I think you needed that desperation to turn things around," he added.

"Having said that, we have learned a lot of lessons and hopefully we will make Zimbabwe cricket great again."

Zimbabwe lost the ODI series to Sri Lanka 2-0 with one game being washed out but Raza said the return of former skipper Sean Williams, 37, would improve their chances for the 20-over matches.