Sri Lanka's revival 'all about smart options'

It is not aggression that Sri Lanka has recently prioritised, but cricketing wit. Following an extremely disappointing year in limited-overs cricket, Sri Lanka has begun 2018 brightly, winning the tri-nations series and their three T20 internationals in Bangladesh. Instrumental to those victories has been a resurgent top order. The likes of Kusal Mendis, Upul Tharanga and Kusal Perera have all struck important innings, while Thisara Perera has been unusually consistent from lower down in the batting order. Where in the past Sri Lanka sides have sworn that positivity and fearlessness mark their route out of a bad stretch of results, it is smarts that has produced improvements, said bowling coach Rumesh Ratnayake.

"As I always say talent was aplenty in our team, it's just that the mindset of the boys - and I think coach Hathuru [Chandika Hathurusingha] has come in taken maximum part in that - I would say he has changed their mindset by letting them do things on their own. It's all about smart options."

The victory against India on Tuesday was perhaps the strongest indication yet that a corner has been turned. Though it is a depleted India side that has arrived for the Nidahas Trophy, it is at India's hands that Sri Lanka suffered most in 2017 - their rampant tour of the island having been particularly traumatic for the hosts.

"For us it's not about being ruthless - it's about playing a smarter game and playing to the best of our abilities," Ratnayake said. "In the last match against India, it wasn't just about winning one part of the game, it was many parts. Your chances are enhanced by making those parts bigger and bigger."

Many players have reported a palpable change in the Sri Lankan dressing room since the arrival of Hathurusingha - particularly with regards to the freedom players have had on his watch. Where in 2017 there was substantial uncertainty about one's place in the team, and a muddled, disjointed strategy devised by coaches whose own position in the set-up was often under threat; Hathurusingha has been credited with providing stability.

"I think Hathu lets people take smart options," Ratnayake said. "And even if the player fails he will say: 'Well, that was good enough, let's try again next time'. For an example, you tell someone to go and play some shots but if he gets out you can't ask him: 'Why did you play that shot?' So he's a man of his word. We have given the players that confidence. If it has shown in the boys, that's good. But consistency is what we're looking for in the future."

While Sri Lanka's batsmen ran down India's 174 of 5 with five wickets and nine deliveries to spare, Ratnayake believed the bowlers fell some way short of their best performances. Three bowlers conceded more than 30 runs.

"We still need to look at our bowling. I personally thought we gave 15 runs too many against India. We have scrutinised that a little bit and we've also looked at instances when an Indian bowler went off for a big over, how well they came back as bowlers. So comparing those things, comparing ourselves as well, and we will what we can do better in the next game. There is lots to learn even though we won."