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12 April 2024

World T20: Struggling Sri Lanka to play with 'freedom'

Sri Lanka cricket player Dinesh Chandimal speaks during a media interaction ahead of their ICC World Twenty20 2016 cricket tournament in Mumbai, India, Wednesday, March 9, 2016. (AP)


Newly-appointed Sri Lanka captain Angelo Mathews said Wednesday the struggling islanders would benefit at the World Twenty20 from being free of the burden of expectation that usually surrounds the side.

The defending champions have slumped to eighth in the T20 rankings and come into the World T20 in India following a disastrous showing at the Asia Cup in Bangladesh.

Few commentators have given them much hope of successfully defending their title in the sixth edition of the shortest form of the game's world championship and that's something Mathews welcomes.

"From the outside no one is really giving us a chance and that's a good thing," he told reporters in Mumbai at Sri Lanka's opening press conference of the 16-team tournament.

"We can play with a lot of freedom and that's what I expect from the team. I'm sure if we do play with a lot of freedom then we'll beat most teams," the skipper added.

Mathews replaced the injured Lasith Malinga as captain earlier this week, just hours before the Sri Lankans were due to leave for India.

Malinga presided over a dismal showing in the Asia Cup where Sri Lanka were beaten by the hosts, little-fancied Bangladesh, and only just scraped past the United Arab Emirates.

Sri Lanka are due to begin their defence of the World Twenty20 trophy on Wednesday, March 17, when they play one of the two minnows who are taking part in a preliminary round taking place this week.

Mathews said he hoped the 32-year-old Malinga, who has been struggling with a knee injury, would be fit for that game.

While Sri Lanka won the last World Twenty20 in Bangladesh in 2014, the team has been badly weakened by the retirements of star batsmen Kumar Sangakkara and Mahela Jayawardene and have struggled to fill the void they left.

Sri Lanka's sports minister sacked the panel of selectors on Tuesday and appointed a new team who immediately made two changes to the squad, replacing Jeffrey Vandersay and Niroshan Dickwella with Lahiru Thirimanne and Suranga Lakmal.

"The morale in the team is quite good. We can't say we are all depressed or moaning about the Asia Cup. It's done and dusted," said Mathews.

"Now it's a matter of going out there and expressing ourselves."