A couple of wins is all it takes sometimes. That is what Sri Lankan cricket has been telling itself over the past year. “We’re not far off/ the talent is there/ the boys just need some confidence/the puzzle pieces just have to fit together.”
The suggestion, of course, is that the state of Sri Lanka’s cricket is not as bad as on-field results suggest. And when the team occasionally pulls off a special victory, such as the 322-run chase against India at the Oval last year, this line of thinking only becomes more prevalent.
On Saturday, this will be put to test. Two victories in their wake, Sri Lanka approach the tri-nation series final with their attack having hit their stride, and key batsmen having begun to find form. But beyond the morale, there is another reason feeding this team’s confidence. Their new coach – Chandika Hathurusingha – has begun to lead the ODI outfit out of darkness, it is hoped.
“Actually, it was a hard time for the team and the Sri Lankan fans over the past two years, especially in the one-day format,” stand-in captain Dinesh Chandimal said. “But now, with the new coach, we’ve got some new strategies. We’ve got a lot of faith in him, and we’ve got some confidence. We’re not thinking about the result. We are always thinking about how to play good cricket when we’re in the middle. That’s the main change we have in the team.”
Chandimal’s own reinstatement to the ODI team and his elevation to the acting captaincy was partly driven by Hathurusingha’s recommendation, so it is no wonder Chandimal feels kindly towards the new coach. Other players have also expressed confidence in Hathurusingha – Thisara Perera and Angelo Mathews having done so in the past two weeks. On the heels of two big victories, there is a little optimism.
“Winning always gives you more confidence going forward,” Chandimal said. “But if you have a good coach and don’t have good cricketers, you can’t get the good result. Likewise, if you have good cricketers with a bad coach, you also can’t get the good result. Now we’ve got the right mixture, and we’ll hope to do well tomorrow.”
If Sri Lanka can defeat Bangladesh on Saturday, the Hathurusingha era will have begun on a bright note – an outcome that seemed unlikely after Sri Lanka had lost their first two matches. Though no fewer than three players (Mathews, Kusal Perera and Nuwan Pradeep) will be out through injury, Sri Lanka hope the good vibes generated by Thursday’s thumping win will lift them in the final.
“We just need to be competitive,” Chandimal said. “We have something up our sleeve for tomorrow, and if we can execute that in the middle, then I’m sure we can get a good result.”
Andrew Fidel Fernando is ESPNcricinfo’s Sri Lanka correspondent. @andrewffernando
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