Ranatunga lauds 'special team effort'
Sri Lanka's first Word Cup-winning captain Arjuna Ranatunga has lauded the team's World T20 win as a "special team effort", which bodes well for the future of the team. Sri Lanka's most successful batsman, Mahela Jayawardene, was not among the top-ten tournament run-scorers, while their most penetrative bowler, Nuwan Kulasekara, finished ninth on the wicket-takers' list.
Ranatunga told Inside Sports that the individuals' form through the Asia Cup, and Sri Lanka's experience in Bangladesh conditions had also been significant. "If you look at the tournament, a lot of contributions were made by new players - young players. We should talk about Mahela, and Kumar Sangakkara, as well as Lasith Malinga, who bowled very well, but I feel that every player made a special contribution - not just a minor one.
"Normally there are heroes in these tournaments, but what I saw was that young players and seniors were all contributing together. That's a great sign for the future of Sri Lanka cricket, when these young players are performing at that level."
Those thoughts echo the subtext of tournament XIs released by the ICC and ESPNcricinfo, which feature only Lasith Malinga from the Sri Lanka team. Ranatunga said the campaign had also had four unsung players who made vital contributions.
"There are players who hadn't shone out, like Kulasekara, Sachithra Senanayake, Kusal Perera and Rangana Herath. Sachithra bowled well throughout the tournament and Kulasekara delivered in difficult moments.
"Rangana hadn't played throughout the tournament, but from the moment he came, he was taking wickets and keeping the runs down. Kusal took the pressure off Sangakkara, Dilshan and Mahela, and put it on his own shoulders. He played the same role as Sanath Jayasuriya used to play. Sometimes it seemed like he played bad shots, but that's his style.
"The other thing you have to say is that our fielding was extremely good - better than the other teams."
Ranatunga also lavished praise on Dinesh Chandimal's decision to opt out of the semi-final and final. Chandimal had been in mediocre form in T20 cricket in the past year, and after the team had defeated New Zealand in a match from which he had been banned, Chandimal gave up the captaincy to Lasith Malinga.
"Even though he was not in good form, Sri Lanka has done well, and protected their No. 1 ranking, while he was captain," Ranatunga said. "No one has the right to leave out a captain, and if Chandimal was able to sacrifice his place to protect a winning combination, I think he deserves a lot of praise in this win. It's a great example to other cricketers."
Ranatunga also said that Jayawardene and Sangakkara had timed their T20 international retirements well. "The cricketers are the ones who know better than anyone, when the right time is to go. In the past we've seen that T20 is a young man's game. I'm sure they've made the correct decision."
Andrew Fidel Fernando is ESPNcricinfo's Sri Lanka correspondent. @andrewffernando