'Beating England in quarters give us the edge' - Asalanka
"I told [Dinesh] Chandimal that the present Under-19 side is better than the one he played in ."
Sri Lanka Under-19s coach Roger Wijesuriya had a big smile on his face as he explained the quality of the present team that will face India in the semi-finals of the Under-19 World Cup on Tuesday.
Wijesuriya felt there's no shortage of talent now, as was the case when he was coach in 2008. "To tell you frankly, from our junior level there are a lot of talented cricketers who may come up," he said. "That's how it has been always. When I coached the Under-19 team in the 2008 World Cup, that's the lot is playing now - the Dinesh Chandimals and others. Out of 15 players, at least 11 players have played for Sri Lanka or Sri Lanka 'A'."
Those who played international cricket are Sachith Pathirana, Ashan Priyanjan, Lahiru Thirimanne, Thisara Perera, Kusal Perera, Dilshan Munaweera, Angelo Perera and Chandimal.
Wijesuriya said that before coming to Bangladesh, the Under-19s' players were also given pep-talks by some of Sri Lanka's most successful international stars. "Before we came here, we had a lot of sessions with a lot of senior players like Lasith Malinga, Kumar Dharmasena and Sanath Jayasuriya. In Sri Lanka, we are very close to each other. There is no boundary as such," he said.
The advice seems to have come handy for captain Charith Asalanka, as he has been one of the team's leading players, scoring two fifties in his 194 runs at 48.50 so far.
Shammu Ashan, Avishka Fernando, Vishad Randika, and Kaveen Bandara have all done a good job with the bat while legspinner Wanidu Hasaranga, left-arm spinners Thilan Nimesh and Damitha Silva and seamer Asitha Fernando have done it with the ball. Kamindu Mendis has had a fine all-round presence too.
"It is an advantage for us. India played Namibia in quarterfinals whereas we played England. They are such different teams. We know India's strengths and weaknesses. It will be advantageous for us. Beating England was the best win for us. We did a good job with our bowling and fielding. We are in really good form."
He also said that India can expect to face a lot of spinners, which means the pace bowlers would have little to do but be economical. "There is not much of support for pacers in these subcontinent pitches. Spinners need to bowl a major part of the overs. I tell the pacers to give me the basics--bowl economically. I tell spinners to take wickets and put pressure on the batsman. There is support from the pitch," he said.
Asalanka added that he knows when Kamindu Mendis will switch to left-arm orthodox or right-arm off-spin, and sets the field for the ambidextrous spinner. "He decides [what he wants to bowl]. When right-hander comes he bowls left-arm and when left-hander comes he bowls right-arm. I know what fields to set for him," he said.
Mohammad Isam is ESPNcricinfo's Bangladesh correspondent. @isam84