Sports

Skipper Dasun Shanaka wins Asian Cup for crisis-ridden Sri Lanka


Skipper Dasun Shanaka on Sunday called the Asian Cup victory a “real turning point” for Sri Lankan cricket ahead of the T20 World Cup and for the nation in crisis.

Sri Lanka beat Pakistan 23 times in the final with Bhanuka Rajapaksa going 71 unbeaten and Wanindu Hasaranga starring with bat and ball in Dubai.

Victory is no short-lived compared to a fairy-tale ending for a team that started the tournament, a precursor to the World Cup that begins next month in Australia, with an embarrassing loss to Afghanistan.

But Shanaka’s men came back with five wins in a row, knocking out the tournament’s favorites India in a Super Four competition and then edging Pakistan twice with ease.

“The players have been playing good cricket for two, three years but the winning factor is not there,” Shanaka said after Sri Lanka’s sixth Asian championship.

“This will be a really good turning point in our cricket. This number of players will continue for another five, six years, so that will be a very good sign for us.”

The island nation has endured months of economic crisis and political turmoil with power outages, fuel shortages and protests becoming part of their lives.

Sri Lankan fans at the Dubai International Stadium celebrated their victory with drums and songs as the winning team hit the ground with the trophy.

“They’ve been waiting for it for so long, especially the final,” Shanaka told reporters. “We should dedicate this victory to the whole nation.”

However, the Asian champions will have to pass the qualifying round to have the opportunity to meet the heavyweights in the main draw of the T20 World Cup on October 22.

But Shanaka believes qualifying will help them get used to Australia and the momentum is already in them.

“We played qualifying last year,” said Shanaka.

“The momentum is there and winning the Asian Cup really helps to advance to the World Cup. Qualifiers will really help because we’ll be playing in the conditions before the main tournament, so it’ll be good for us. I.”

Coach Chris Silverwood, appointed in April to lead Sri Lanka after overseeing England’s Ashes humiliation in Australia, was credited for the new-found team’s confidence.

The England international was seen chatting with Rajapaksa and Hasaranga, who made 36 and then led 3–27 with his foot swing, in a crucial 58-turn match between the two players who lifted Sri Lanka from precarious position 58-5 to 170. -6.

Rajapaksa said: “He was always a good motivator for us and always wanted us to play aggressive cricket.

“We’ve been given the freedom to play as we want. And that really helps us as a team and as a young unit to come and win games like this.”

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