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WT20: Sri Lanka not being favourities is a favour, says Angelo Matthews

Sri Lankan skipper Angelo Matthews says defending champions are more than happy to go into World T20 as underdogs as it will give them the freedom to express and excel

It's a far from ideal build up for defending champions Sri Lanka going into the ICC World Twenty20. Lasith Malinga stepped down from captaincy on Monday and Angelo Matthews was handed the reins.

Sri Lanka skipper Angelo Mathews addresses the media at a city hotel yesterday. Pic/Bipin Kokate
Sri Lanka skipper Angelo Mathews addresses the media at a city hotel yesterday. Pic/Bipin Kokate

There has been a complete overhaul in the selection committee just nine days before the ICC World T20 with the new panel, headed by former Lankan skipper Aravinda de Silva, including his former teammates Kumar Sangakkara and Romesh Kaluwitharana. Besides, a series loss to India (1-2) and a defeat in the Asia Cup were other setbacks the team had to deal with.

All is well
Mathews, however, insisted yesterday that all is well within the Sri Lankan camp. "Not going in as favourites is like a favour for us. We admit that we didn't played good cricket in the Asia Cup, but the morale in the team is good. We can't say that we are all depressed and mourning the Asia Cup defeat. That's done and dusted. We've left it behind. This (World T20) is a new series… a fresh start for us," Mathews told reporters during his first media interaction ahead of the World T20.

Sri Lanka players celebrate the wicket of Pakistan's Mohammad Hafeez during the Asia Cup Twenty20 tie in Mirpur last week. Pic/AFP
Sri Lanka players celebrate the wicket of Pakistan's Mohammad Hafeez during the Asia Cup Twenty20 tie in Mirpur last week. Pic/AFP

With the favourites tag gone, Mathews felt his team will be able to play freely. "If you look from the outside, no one will give us a chance, and that's a good thing because we can go out there and express ourselves. I don't want them to think that we can win the World Cup. We want to take one game at a time, play with a lot of freedom because if we do play that, I am sure we are going to beat most of the teams. That's all I want from the team and they know very well what I expect," said Mathews, who admitted he was initially hesitant to lead this team, having done so previously in 2012.

When asked if he was prepared to lead, he said: "I was not, but I have the experience of captaining for quite a few years now, so it's a challenge. Whether you are the captain or not, you have a certain role to play in the team," he said. Many might feel that the defending champions are well prepared considering the T20 series against India followed by the Asia Cup, but most of the players, who were part of that three-match T20 series are not part of this World T20 outfit.

"We need a bit of patience and try to build up the squad for World Cups, which we didn't do actually. We were quite impatient. With a set of inexperienced guys, you need to let them settle down a bit. Unfortunately, these set of players have not played matches together for a long time. So it's obvious that we haven't done well, but we are quite a capable team. If we gel well, we can overcome all obstacles," Mathews signed off.

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