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Ten years on, ‘dark horses’ Sri Lanka are on a quest for second T20 title

Ten years on, ‘dark horses’ Sri Lanka are on a quest for second T20 title
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Wanindu Hasaranga’s men can be hard to stop at the T20 World Cup if they start well and gain momentum.

Ten years on from their ICC T20 World Cup winning campaign led by an outgoing golden generation, Sri Lanka’s next crop of cricketers find themselves with a chance to write their names in history by bringing the country another trophy.

It was in 2014 that Sri Lankan legends Kumar Sangakkara, Mahela Jayawardene and Lasith Malinga turned the tables on favourites India to win the T20 World Cup final in Bangladesh.

Now, led by prolific all-rounder Wanindu Hasaranga, Sri Lanka may not be outright favourites, but former player Farveez Maharoof believes their recent form cannot be ignored going into the current T20 World Cup in the West Indies and United States.

“Sri Lanka have done marvellously to beat Bangladesh, Afghanistan, and Zimbabwe [in recent series],” Maharoof told Al Jazeera, before admitting that the country’s poor finishes in the last T20 World Cups “will be playing on the players’ minds”.

The island nation was once considered a powerhouse in the tournament’s history – and rightly so. They qualified for the final in 2009, semifinals in 2010 and home final in 2012, before lifting the trophy in 2014.

However, since that historic six-wicket win over India in April 2014, the Lankan Lions have failed to reach the knockout stages of the tournament.

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(Al Jazeera)

‘Hard to stop them’

Hasaranga’s side will aim to resurrect themselves when their tournament campaign gets under way against South Africa on Monday in New York and Maharoof backs them to do well despite being drawn in a tough group.

Sri Lanka’s Group D – or so-called group of death – also includes South Africa, Bangladesh, the Netherlands and Nepal.

“Hasaranga has led from the front in pressure situations, which is a hallmark of a good leader,” Maharoof, who also played the role of an all-rounder, said of the current captain.

“I see Hasaranga as a positive and aggressive team man, and that’s exactly what you want in a T20 captain.”

The 26-year-old skipper took the reins of the side from Dasun Shanaka in December and has led Sri Lanka to five wins in seven matches. He will benefit from the presence of richly experienced all-rounder Angelo Mathews, who was a vital member of the 2014 title-winning side.

Maharoof believes Mathews’s “wealth of experience and many years of international cricket” are exactly what Hasaranga needs as a young leader.

“Hasaranga has surrounded himself with good players,” he said.

While Sri Lanka have named a spin-heavy squad, considering the crucial role of slower bowlers on the pitches in the US and West Indies, Maharoof sees them as a team that has all its bases covered.

He termed them the tournament’s “dark horses”.

“This Sri Lankan squad has what it takes to go all the way. T20 cricket is all about momentum and if the Sri Lankan team starts well and gains momentum [in the World Cup], it’ll be hard to stop them.”

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(Al Jazeera)

Maharoof’s three Sri Lankan players to watch

Hasanranga: “The captain will be a very important player who can play a floater’s role in the batting order, providing them flexibility. With the ball, he will attack and try to take wickets in his four overs. If Hasaranga has a good World Cup, Sri Lanka will have a good World Cup.”

Kusal Mendis: “If he gets going at the top of the [batting] order, he can be brutal.”

Dushmantha Chameera: “Chameera has just won the Indian Premier League with Kolkata Knight Riders and his confidence will be very high. If he stays fit and gets the right rhythm, Chameera will be a bowler to watch.”

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(Al Jazeera)

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