Mumbai: Sri Lanka cricket team dealt with an enormous blow ahead of the ICC World Twenty20 – Lasith Malinga stepped down as skipper citing injury concerns passing the mantle to Angelo Mathews. The 28-year-old – who leads the team in ODI and Tests – said the team is keen to start afresh and defend the title.
“It is unfortunate that Malinga is not fit as yet, but he is a vital person in the team. We wanted him to rest and recover under expert supervision,” said Mathews.
Malinga is not playing the warm-up games and is expected to turn up for the main matches.
“We hope he is able to play the first game. We know his quality, he can train a couple of days and straight walk in to the match, he is that sort of a player,” added Mathews, who was not prepared to lead the team in the tournament.
What made him take up the tough job in a high pressure event?
“How can I turn my team and country down when they ask me to lead in the World Cup? I have the experience of leading Sri Lanka for quite a few years. But Lasith and the selectors have been planning for this World Cup for a long time. The situation is different now and I have to get the best out of this team,” he asserted.
Sri Lanka did not fare well in the Asia Cup. They lost to Bangladesh, Pakistan and India but that is not bothering Mathews.
“In Asia Cup, we found it difficult to compete and did not play good enough cricket to reach the final. This is a fresh tournament. We have learnt a lot from the Asia Cup and we will take it as an experience,” Mathews cleared it out.
Sri Lanka Cricket recently revamped the selection committee. Former cricketers Aravinda de Silva and the recently-retired Kumar Sangakkara were included in the panel. Mathews saluted the decision.
“They are legends, two of the best cricketers Sri Lanka ever produced. If they are involved in the selection process, it will be a boost. These players have played a lot of World Cups and their experience will be handy.
Aravinda helped us towards the later part of Asia Cup,” added Mathews.
Along with Mahela Jayawardene, Sangakkara reconstructed the Sri Lankan team reaching the final of ICC World Cup in 2007 and 2011. But the current squad is more of youth and less of experience.
“It will take time to fill in the shoes of Sangakkara and Jayawardene. We have to be patient and build a team for the World Cup. The youngsters need time to settle down. This bunch is not quite settled for a lot of players haven’t played with each other for a long time and for obvious reasons, we haven’t performed well either. But we are capable,” Mathews said.
After many years, Sri Lanka is not touted as a favourite in this World Cup. But the skipper called it a blessing.
“We will play with a lot of freedom. Not going in as a favourite is doing a favour for us. We will play with a lot of freedom,” said Mathews....