Chandimal upbeat about Sri Lanka's prospects
Top-ranked in the format for 17 months, exultant and exalted after the Asia Cup win, all after six loss-less weeks in Bangladesh - if World Twenty20 has a favourite, it must be the Sri Lanka team. There is the small matter of final-phobia, seemingly induced by pressure, but captain Dinesh Chandimal is not a man to back away from a challenge, even when he is outmatched. As the team prepares to leave for Bangladesh, he embraced the hopes that have been heaped high upon them, instead of downplaying Sri Lanka's prospects.
"There's a lot of expectation among the fans that we will win the tournament as well, and even within the team, there is a belief that we can win this," Chandimal said. "We played in Bangladesh for two and a half months, so we have some experience on how the wicket is behaving there and also when the dew factor comes into play. Most of the players in the World Twenty20 squad played in the Bangladesh tour, so that's a big advantage.
"It's a great opportunity, but we can't take it for granted. We will have to put in a lot of effort, and take it from game to game - first working towards the semi-final. We have some things up our sleeve. We have a game plan for each team. Everyone is set for the short format, and we're looking forward to that."
Sri Lanka have England, South Africa and New Zealand in their group, in addition to a yet-to-be-determined qualifier, and though Chandimal acknowledged the fickle nature of Twenty20 cricket, he felt his team were well-placed for the group stage.
"There's a big advantage in our group, because out of the four teams, three aren't very familiar with subcontinent conditions. But we don't take any team lightly. In Twenty20, a match can turn in one or two overs. But we have plans for each team, and we'll use that."
Perhaps the most obvious chink in Sri Lanka's game, has been Chandimal's own Twenty20 form. He averages 13.36 in the format - worse in the past 12 months. Chief selector Sanath Jayasuriya suggested team management would back Chandimal to the hilt in the tournament, but Chandimal himself did not warm to the notion of moving to a preferred spot up the order to improve his output.
"I've been a little uncomfortable in the middle, but I've been practicing hard," he said. "The question is not whether I can play better at No. 3, it's what will be better for the team. If I can come in and perform, then I will bat in that position. But if there is someone better suited to that position, he will go in. We are looking at what the team needs to do and how the team can win. That's how we're approaching it."
Chandimal did not speak of Sri Lanka's recent history of botched finals, but Jayasuriya - who had been similarly upbeat about the team's World Twenty20 chances - said Sri Lanka's jinx had now been lifted.
"Since 2007 we have done well in ICC events, but unfortunately we faltered in the final. But I think during the Asia Cup we came out of that barrier. We won chasing 260. That gave us confidence. We put undue pressure on ourselves when we scores of 260 or so, but I think now the players are experienced enough to adapt to such situations. We didn't win the finals, but the good thing is that we have reached those finals."
Andrew Fidel Fernando is ESPNcricinfo's Sri Lanka correspondent. He tweets here