Mahela Jayawardene offered an olive branch to fans who have lost faith in watching cricket and heartbrokern after Sri Lanka choked in the World Twenty20 final against West Indies less than a month ago.
The one-off T20 international between Sri Lanka and New Zealand saw less than 500 people at Pallekele stadium in Kandy on Tuesday night, according to the Daily Mirror.
Inclement weather which caused the match to be abandoned may have been one of the reasons for the low turn out which was in stark contrast to the frenzy of excitement and high expectations which attracted Sri Lankans fans in droves during the Twenty20 extravaganza.
R. Premadasa Stadium in Colombo which packed to capacity with many coughing up exhorbitant sums to purchase tickets for the October 7 finale only to see Sri Lanka ending up second best for the fourth time in a World Cup.
Some have been even quick to brand them as chokers, a tag generally associated with South Africa.
But captain Mahela Jayawardene, who led Sri Lanka to two of those finals and scored a hundred in another, defended his side but admitted that the team has not handled those finals well.
"We haven’t handled finals well. But still we played some good cricket. One or two individuals have taken it away from us in those finals. That’s the beauty of the game. We need to perhaps try and see how we can execute and be more ruthless in a final," Mahela Jayawardene told journalists.
"In some of the decisions we made throughout the World T20, we backed ourselves and they worked. I don’t know what we could have done differently. We picked up the combination that we thought was right and for 12 overs, that was the right combination. Maybe two or three overs, we didn’t execute well and these are the guys who brought us into the final. The only thing that crossed my mind was that this is all about cricket. If you go into the game and give your best and come second best, you will take it but World T20 final was at home and we disappointed our fans and those are the things that will hurt us more. For three weeks, we did a lot of good things to get there and we didn’t do enough to get over the hurdle."
Sri Lanka go into the five-match one-day international series with Jayawardene, who relinquished the T2o captaincy, facing a fresh challenge.
"We have to move on. It wasn’t easy. The guys looked pretty solid with the way they played yesterday," Jayawardene said referring to their performance in the one-off Twenty20 international on Tuesday night.
"They executed a pretty solid game plan to get back on the field after what happened in the World T20," he added.
The veteran Sri Lanka batsman wanted to put behind this nightmare and pledged to raise the bar for the future challenges.
"We will start focusing on how we can improve and challenge ourselves. The next two to three months, the challenges we face will be quite different. There’s a good tour to Australia and we need to make sure that we get back to winning ways and challenge ourselves to win an overseas Test match," he said.
As usual there is no dearth of talent with Sri Lanka having five pacers and five spinners in their 15-member squad. The only problem is Jayawardene is spoilt for choice especially in the bowling department.
"It’s a good thing to have options. But it doesn’t mean that even though we have the options, we must use them all," said Jayawardene.
"People might say after the game that you must have bowled this one or that one. But at the end of the day, you have to make those calls and sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t," he said.
The two new caps in the squad, Akila Dhananjaya and Tharindu Kaushal, may not feature in Pallekelle because a pacy track has been prepared.
"The conditions don’t suit spinners. However, it’s good to have Kaushal in the squad," Jayawardene said.
"Let him settle in the team and let’s see how things work. Rangana is back in the squad as well and we need to pick a combination that we think is good against New Zealand," the skipper said.
Sri Lanka is currently ranked fifth in the ODI championship table with 108 rating points and New Zealand are ranked eighth with 74.