Sri Lanka's new Twenty20 captain Dinesh Chandimal has admitted there is significant pressure on the hosts to finish the home series against Bangladesh on a high note, ahead of the one-off Twenty20 in Pallekele on Sunday. The hosts had been expected to win each series comprehensively, but could only draw the ODI series 1-1, and allowed Bangladesh to draw a Test against Sri Lanka, for the first time.
Chandimal is now set to lead a young, inexperienced side, which will feature at least one debutant, as six uncapped Twenty20 players have been named in the 16-man squad. They will likely play four top-order batsmen with less than 15 matches' experience, and two specialist bowlers who have each played less than five Twenty20s.
"Bangladesh won the last match and will be in a good mental state. But our players have got a big chance here and they will hopefully take that opportunity," Chandimal said. "It's a lot of pressure, but I like to play with that pressure. As a cricketer, there has to be pressure when we play, because that's when we can truly overcome challenges. We never underestimated Bangladesh, because they are an improving side in world cricket.
"I have to be content with this team, because as youngsters, this is the kind of tour that they should be given opportunities in. When you are playing your first or second match, it's better if you play teams like Bangladesh and Zimbabwe and then get the confidence to play big matches against Australia and England. It's good if they can learn from their time with the seniors and take their cricket forward."
Chandimal has never captained a national team at age-group level, but he had had a superlative season as captain of Ananda College, in Colombo, where he led his side to an unprecedented 13 outright wins in 2008. He was one of several candidates for Test captaincy as well, despite his youth, but eventually Angelo Mathews was given the role, and Chandimal made vice-captain.
"I was captain in Under-19 and U-15 teams as well, in a few provincial matches. This is a great challenge, because captaining the national team is not something everyone can do. We need to talk to all our players, of every level of experience and figure out how we are going to improve and win more matches for our country.
"We don't have the experienced players like Kumar Sangakkara and Tillakaratne Dilshan, who played well in the last two series. But I think there are great young players like Dilshan Munaweera and Kusal Perera. This is a great opportunity for the young players." Chandimal singled out Nasir Hossain as a particular threat among the opposition batsmen, and said Sri Lanka had grown wary of his strengths during the tour. Nasir walloped 33 runs from 27 deliveries in the third ODI, to propel his side to victory, and had struck 73 not out from 59 deliveries to close out the innings in the first ODI as well, in addition to the Test ton he scored in Galle.
"Bangladesh's batsmen have improved a lot from how they were before. Nasir Hossain has been the batsman who has batted the best in the ODI series, and he's been consistent throughout the tour, so we've got a plan for him. We've got plans for all the others as well. We're hoping that tomorrow we can come through in those situations, and showcase our talent."