Kolkata: Afghanistan's remarkable rise and Sri Lanka's recent slide have coincided to lend more intrigue to today's Super 10 Group 1 contest at the Eden Gardens. It was not without reason that Angelo Matthews brushed aside suggestions that their opponents were 'minnows'.
SL skipper Angelo Mathews
"They beat all teams in the qualifying, and can upset any team on their day," pointed out the skipper of Sri Lanka, who will be defending the crown they won in 2014.
"The last couple of times we met, we had close games. They have always fought hard against us, and we have to fight well," he reminded.
Nearly missed last year
The Afghans had nearly pulled off victory Down Under during the World Cup last year.
The island nation, rebuilding after the retirement of iconic players, have been further set back by a knee injury to Lasith Malinga. "He will bowl off a full run-up tomorrow, and we'll take a call then," Mathews said when asked for an update on the 'slinger'. Malinga bowled a couple of overs off a short run-up at the Jadavpur University campus yesterday.
"We didn't do well in the Asia Cup, but we're getting better by the day. I'm confident of my team's progress. If we play to our potential we can beat them," said Mathews.
Afghanistan, mentored by Inzamam-ul-Huq and Manoj Prabhakar, have taken big strides in recent years. Skipper Asghar Stanikzai carries a calm confidence. Their 'home' now is in Greater Noida. "Last time we nearly to beat them but Jayawardene and Sangakkara bailed them out. This time they are not there, most players are new. We have a good chance to beat them," he said.