Mentally strong SL confident of success 

Friday, 10 January 2020 00:10 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

 Sri Lanka Cricket and Sri Lanka Under-19 Cricket management with Sri Lanka Under-19 Cricket Word Cup team members

From left: Sri Lanka Under-19 Manager Farveez Maharoof, Under-19 Captain Nipun Dananjaya, and Under-19 Coach Hashan Tillakaratne - Pix by Ruwan Walpola

Under-19 World Cup


By Madushka Balasuriya 

Sri Lanka were in a confident mood as the team prepared to depart for the Under-19 Cricket World Cup set to get underway this month in South Africa. Buoyed by a tri-series win over the West Indies and England at the tail end of 2019, and a four-day training camp aimed at preparing the players for South African conditions, the team believes they are well-equipped for the challenges ahead.

“In the last three years, we have looked into replicating the types of pitches we would get in South Africa in the early part of the year. What types of scores and performances are expected on those surfaces on average, whether wickets were taken by spinners or fast bowlers; it was upon looking at those conditions that the squad was selected,” explained Under-19 Head Coach Hashan Tillekeratne at a media briefing in Colombo yesterday.

“The boys have also worked very hard on their own game, especially in the West Indies. They learned a lot about their weaknesses as well as their own strengths. We had a long discussion at the camp in Dambulla about how and where we can improve to come out winners.”

Sri Lanka will face India in their opening Group A match on 19 January in Bloemfontein. New Zealand and Japan are the other two sides in the group. While two wins will take the team through to the knockout stages, a match against the team they have lost to more often than not first up has the makings of a sub-optimal start to the tournament. But this Sri Lanka side are both physically and mentally stronger now.

“They’re mentally very strong. Even before the tour, they went through a profile check to see how strong they are, etc. We also did a Special Forces camp in Madura as well, which was aimed at mentally strengthening the players. That was done before the Bangladesh tour last year. It was four days of not just working hard on fitness, but learning how to bounce back after a setback.”

Sri Lanka Under-19 Captain Nipun Dananjaya, speaking about his team’s chances, also showcased the newfound mental strength and confidence running through the squad.

“Honestly I think we can win it this time around,” stated Dananjaya. “We have our plans. All the players know their roles in the team. Everyone knows that if they play to their strengths, we can lift the World Cup, and if all 15 of us work together with that solitary goal in mind, taking each match at a time, executing our plans, then the wins will come. It’s just about taking it one step at a time and not getting too ahead of ourselves.”

Foremost among those plans is the inclusion of 17-year-old Maleesha Pathirana. Yet to play ODI cricket at the Under-19 level, the young pacer missed the West Indies tour due to an injury, but this seems to have worked out as a blessing in disguise as team management had been looking to keep his talents as secret as possible. 

Having burst onto the scene last year, after footage of his slinging bowling action – one eerily reminiscent of Lasith Malinga’s – went viral on social media, it wasn’t long before he was drafted into the Under-19 setup.

“Pathirana was tested in Bangladesh, and he was man of the match in the Tests. So, we expect that a bowler like that, someone who hasn’t been seen before in a tournament like this – we want to utilise him the best we can,” explained Tillekeratne. “That was one of the reasons we were happy he wasn’t in the West Indies, because if he had been, the opposition might have been able to better prepare for him. So, we’re trying to utilise him as tactically as possible in this tournament.”