World T20: Not being favourites will give us a chance to play with freedom, says Angelo Mathews - Firstpost

World T20: Not being favourites will give us a chance to play with freedom, says Angelo Mathews

Sri Lanka are the ICC World T20 defending champions but after a long time will go into a big tournament without being considered favourites. Newly elected captain Angelo Mathews, though, feels that the 'underdogs' tag might work to their advantage.

"Not going in as favourites is favourable for us. We didn't play good cricket in the Asia Cup but it's not as if our morale has taken a beating. We are not depressed or moaning about the Asia Cup. It is done and dusted. T20 World Cup is fresh start for us. We are hoping that we will click as a unit," Mathews said in a news conference in Mumbai on Wednesday.

"If you look at it from the outside, no one will give us a chance. And that is a good thing", said the Sri Lanka captain.

"We can go out and express ourselves. We can play with a lot of freedom. And that is exactly what I expect from the team. I want my boys to go out there and take one game at a time and express themselves," Mathews added.

Sri Lanka captain Angelo Mathews. Reuters

Sri Lanka captain Angelo Mathews. Reuters

Sri Lanka are going through a tough phase at the moment. They haven't won a single series (Test, ODI or T20I) in the last three months. They were the Asia Cup defending champions but managed to win just one of their four matches. Mathews conceded that confidence isn't sky-high at the moment.

Just days before the start of World T20, pace spearhead Lasith Malinga stepped down as captain following fresh injury concerns. A new selection panel headed by Aravinda de Silva was installed with Kumar Sangakkara and Romesh Kaluwitharana added on board. Mathews took over as captain from Malinga. he, however, claimed that off field distractions won't affect their game.

"After Malinga resigned as captain, the Board (Sri Lanka Cricket) asked me to take over. We are not very disturbed because the administrators know what needs to be done. As cricketers it is important for us to focus on this very important tournament. We are not really worried about what is happening outside," the 28-year-old said.

Mathews, however, admitted that he wasn't mentally prepared to lead the side but took up the challenge because he couldn't let his country down.

"I was not (mentally prepared). But I have the experience of captaining for quite a few years now. Every tournament is a challenge. Every game is a challenge. Whether you are the captain or not you have a certain role to play in the team," Mathews said.

"I was told to lead the side. How can I say no? How can I let the team and the country down? I will take this as a positive signal. I know they trust me. I will do whatever it takes to take the team to the top with whatever I have. I have the team that I wanted. Now is a time to go out and express ourselves," Mathews added.

The retirements of Mahela Jayawardena and Kumar Sangakkara have left a huge void and Mathews said they need to be patient with fresh faces in the side.

"To fill the shoes of Mahela and Sangakkara is going to take a lot of time. All we have to do is try and be patient," Mathews said.

"With a set of inexperienced guys, you need to let them settle down a bit. This team is not quite settled, this set of players haven't played a lot of matches. It is obvious that we haven't done well. But we know that we are a settled team. If we gel well, we can overcome any obstacle," Mathews added.

Malinga, who has suffered knee injury, hopes to be fit for the opening game of the tournament and he won't take part in the practice matches.

"We are hoping that Lasith will be fit for the opening game. As of now the plan is that we don't want him to play the first practice game. We want him to rest and recover," the Lankan skipper said.

"Given his quality, Lasith can train a couple of days and walk straight into a match. We hope that he is fit for our opener but we can't be too sure of it. Reports are yet to come and at the moment we don't know what the situation is. We will get to know in the next few days."

Mathews said Asia Cup was a good learning curve and it'll be better to take one step at a time.

"It was a pretty disappointing tournament (Asia Cup) for us. Especially going in as defending champions, we found it tough to even compete at some points. We aren't looking too far ahead. We will take one game at a time and build a momentum. And once that happens, I know that no team can stop us. "

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