What's the feeling in the team like after a slow start?
We just have to realise that it's a long tournament. A World Cup is five to six weeks and you have to build your campaign. We have been telling the boys to be patient and pace themselves. We've been playing good cricket throughout the last year and this year as well. The preparation in New Zealand could have been better, but given the injuries and everything that we had, I thought it was still good.

Having done so well last year, is it a shock to be in a position where you're not winning matches?
Not winning is a concern. The important thing is to analyse why we're not winning, and not panic. Fielding is an aspect we need to improve. In the big crucial games, we need to be more aggressive on the field and make sure we grab on to our chances. With the injuries with the bowling, we need to give them a bit of extra time to get into rhythm. Lasith Malinga and Suranga Lakmal are coming back from injury, and Sachithra Senanayake is coming back into the game as well. With the batting there are a few adjustments as well - a few people batting in different positions. It's a big change from last year, but change is nothing new to the Sri Lankan team.

There's been a lot of planning for this tournament, but have players lost form as they have arrived at it?
I don't think people have lost form. Key players have been in and out with injury. Rangana Herath has been bowling really well. Nuwan Kulasekara is there or thereabouts. The part-timers have been doing a job as well. Even in the first game against New Zealand, all three guys who got fifties gave chances. If we had taken those chances, things would have been different. We have to be critical of ourselves there, and be more.

Are you drawing on the memory of the past campaigns where things have gone well?
The good thing about this unit is that the same group of players have been around for a long time. We've all seen this in tournaments before - how we start slow. In the World T20 and the previous World Cup it was the same. That said, we need to be calmer in certain situations. Thisara Perera is a vital part of our team, and he still hasn't come right in New Zealand. We need to get him going at some stage. Angelo Mathews had an injury in the New Zealand series, so he's just getting back into it. There are a lot of components in this team that just need to gel together. If we get that right, we'll be fine. Individuals are performing, but we need to make a collective effort in the big games.

"The game has evolved over the years, and I don't think we have as a country. In other countries they have, and they adjust much quicker than our boys"

No one is rating Sri Lanka highly in this tournament. Do you think you have the quality in the squad to win the tournament?
We definitely have the personnel. No one gives us any chance in any tournament. Even back home, people don't really rate us that high. We've come across that often, we've fought hard, and we've proven a lot of people wrong. We knew that playing these teams in these conditions was going to be tough. We will have our fair share of defeats - that's a given. It's not a tournament that you can completely dominate. But the idea is to win those crucial moments and crucial games and get to a position where we can strike.

What have Sri Lanka learned, strategy wise, in their time in New Zealand so far?
The weather and the pitches have been good, so the scores have been high. In those seven matches, there were at least one or two that we should have turned around. We were trying different things, whether through injury or experimenting. In that sense it was good - we figured out what we can and can't use.

But tactically, we need to be smarter in these conditions. We will have certain limitations, but within those limitations, we know we can win matches when we play our brand of cricket. We don't have bowlers who are 6ft 4in, who will get bounce from these tracks, but we have a unit that will create opportunities. We also won a World T20 without power hitters - our only power came from Thisara and Angelo. We go about our game in different ways to teams like South Africa, Australia or New Zealand. But we have skilful batsmen who will be effective playing their way.

In Sri Lanka, 300-plus scores are quite rare. Does that background make it harder for you when you come to a tournament like this and 300 is talked of as the par score?
We have to realise why 300 is possible here. Some of the venues are very small, and the two new balls make the last 15 overs tough. It's about getting though that first 30-35 overs with wickets in hand, then you can accelerate. So you have to pick up early wickets and keep taking them through the middle. You saw New Zealand do that against England. I don't think it's tough for us to get 300 with our batting. We came close in a couple of matches against New Zealand, but our finish hasn't been great.

Having won a major tournament in the World T20, how has that changed the way the players see this World Cup?
Thinking-wise, it's changed. We know handling big tournaments is about not panicking. It's nothing crazy. It's about building on the things we've been doing for years. In the crunch games, you just have to hold everything together. You shouldn't put added pressure on yourself, because that restricts the way you play. We know we have handled tough situations in big finals, so that belief is there.

In the past, Sri Lanka have been trailblazers in terms of limited-overs strategy. Have other teams taken things forward now, with Sri Lanka left to catch up?
There are certain things that we think we can learn from. It all depends on the conditions and our own ability to execute certain tactics. If we try to replicate things other teams are doing, are we going to fall into a trap? We have limitations, as I said, in these conditions. We need to find ways and means of maximising our strengths. We know we need to take wickets up front and through the middle, but the way we go about it could be different to the way other teams do that. Even with the batting, we need to think about how we can finish strongly in that last ten overs, and do it our way.

With Lahiru Thirimanne opening now, is there any thought to switching batsmen around to bolster that lower middle order?
I don't know if changing the line-up is the solution. It's about the players' attitude in those situations. Dimuth Karunaratne has been given a role to play and he should have the confidence to do that. Lahiru going up did require a change, but if we try to patch that by moving batsmen around, we might have problems in a different area. The top four or five guys are batting really well, so we've been getting good starts, which is important. In the middle order, I thought Jeevan Mendis was batting well in the lead-up games, and he's given us a little bit of balance. If we can have Thisara batting well and bowling well, he's a match-winner. He has proven that with the Man-of-the-Match awards he has won. Right now he's trying to find that form. Till then, we've got other combinations and other people.

"I don't think it's tough for us to get 300 with our batting. We came close in a couple of matches against New Zealand, but our finish hasn't been great"

Lahiru himself seems to be able to perform a role wherever he bats. How encouraging is that?
He and Angelo Mathews will probably be the two outstanding batsmen in the years to come. Angie has come a long way. In the last two to three years he's been a phenomenal player. I don't know where Lahiru will bat after the World Cup, but I'd say he'd fit in nicely at three when Sanga [Sangakkara] finishes up. We need that steady influence at No. 3, and that's an ideal place for Lahiru to establish himself. Right now he's been asked to do a tough job, and he's trying to execute that.

Why is it that Sri Lanka batsmen take a long time to bloom at the top level?
I've been harping on about it for a long time: it's our structure at first-class cricket. The competition at that level is not good enough. They are not being pushed to a level that they develop the mental and technical aspects as good as in other countries. We have the natural talent, but that's a part of the game we really have to develop. At that level, it's tough to see whether batsmen have developed or not. Yes, they are scoring runs, but under what situations? Are they put under the same tough pressure that they face at international level? My answer is no. They get exposed quite quickly at this level, and it takes a far longer time when they get to this level. The game has evolved over the years, and I don't think we have as a country. In other countries they have, and they adjust much quicker than our boys.

It's your last tournament for Sri Lanka. How much is that playing on your mind?
Honestly, I haven't thought about it. I'm just focusing on the World Cup. It'll hit me once everything is finished. But because I was preparing for this since my Test retirement, that thought hasn't affected me at all. Once everything is finished in April and May, when I'm sitting at home, it will hit me that it's finished.

Andrew Fidel Fernando is ESPNcricinfo's Sri Lanka correspondent. @andrewffernando