Cricket-Shanaka weaves playoff dreams around Jayawardene's acumen and team's youth

FILE PHOTO: Cricket - First One Day International - Sri Lanka v India - R. Premadasa International Cricket Stadium, Colombo, Sri Lanka - July 18, 2021 Sri Lanka's Dasun Shanaka in action REUTERS/Dinuka Liyanawatte

DUBAI (Reuters) - Sri Lanka cricket captain Dasun Shanaka is banking on former skipper Mahela Jayawardene's tactical brilliance and the team's youthful exuberance to make the playoffs of the Twenty20 World Cup, the all-rounder said on Saturday.

The 2014 champions find themselves jostling with the game's minnows in the preliminary rounds and need a top-two finish in Group A to make the Super 12 stage.

Sri Lanka have roped in Jayawardene as a consultant for the preliminary round, hoping to benefit from the experience of a coach who has overseen Mumbai Indians' three successful Indian Premier League (IPL) campaigns.

"He's been amazing over the years," Shanaka told a media session ahead of their first match against Namibia on Monday.

"Tactically, he is the best in the business. He's been a real asset for all of us."

Sri Lanka are still in the throes of a tricky transition following the retirements of stalwarts like Kumar Sangakkara and Jayawardene.

Shanaka conceded their performance, especially over the last two years, were not "up to the mark" but has big expectations from his young side.

"The strength of our squad is very good...We got that potential to go to the Super 12 and make the playoffs. I don't feel any pressure, I feel confident."

Along with Wanindu Hasaranga, currently the second-ranked bowler in Twenty20 cricket, fellow spinner Maheesh Theekshana would trouble the batsmen, warned Shanaka.

"He's been amazing over the last few years," he said of Hasaranga. "He is very hard to pick because he's coming from a low angle.

"With Wanindu, we got Maheesh Theekshana as well... going forward, they will do a good job for the team."

Shanaka said winning the 2014 title was "one of the greatest moments" in Sri Lanka's cricketing history.

"I feel the youngsters have got the same potentials. The only thing they lack is experience.

"If they perform to their strength, we can go a long away in this tournament."

(Reporting by Amlan Chakraborty in New Delhi; editing by Shri Navaratnam)

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