COLOMBO: Sri Lanka captain Mahela Jayawardene pointed to the familiarity of home conditions and a “fanatic” crowd support as reasons why his team deserves to be favorite when the World Twenty20 starts later this month.
He said Sri Lanka is trying to buck the trend of losing semifinals and finals in high-profile tournaments, having lost a 50-over World Cup semifinal in 2007 and the final in 2011 plus the World Twenty20 final in 2009.
“Obviously we have a slight advantage in little bit of the conditions as well as the crowd being behind us,” Jayawardene said.
“We'll definitely enjoy some fanatic fans behind us.”
Prolific batsman Kumar Sangakkara and seam bowler Nuwan Kulasekara are recovering well from injuries, Jayawardene said.
Sangakkara broke a finger and Kulasekara injured his groin during the home one-day international series against India in July.
“Kumar is getting along well. I think he's been batting day and night getting extra net sessions (as) he has lost a few in the past few weeks. Kumar is like that,” Jayawardene said.
“Nuwan has been bowling 80 to 90 percent in the last week or so. Next week we'll push him a bit more with the fielding and all that. He should be OK with his groin injury.”
Jayawardene was excited about the two uncapped players in his squad, especially 18-year-old off-spinner Akila Dhananjaya, who has been selected to play international cricket straight out of school with no first-class experience.
“He is a work in progress. We were also surprised the way he bowled in SLPL (Sri Lanka Premier League),” Jayawardene said.
“He showed a lot of maturity for a guy who has not played any first-class cricket, just played school cricket. I am sure he can handle himself in this league.”
Sri Lanka open the tournament with a match against Group C rivals Zimbabwe at Hambantota on Sept 18 and then play South Africa at the same venue four days later.
“We have played at Hambantota before and the wind there presents some challenges,” Jayawardene said.
“But it is the same for the other teams as well. With the experience we have we should see how we can use it to our advantage.”
The top two in the three-team group will advance to the Super Eight stage.