Sri Lanka may have put together the second-longest win streak in ODI cricket, but they will face their most formidable opponent since beginning their run of 13 successive victories when they face India in their Asia Cup Super 4 match at the R. Premadasa Stadium tomorrow.
Sri Lanka began their unbeaten run in June this year when they won the final two ODIs of a three-match home series against Afghanistan, and then put together an unbeaten run during the ICC World Cup Qualifiers in Zimbabwe.
They have also remained unbeaten during their Asia Cup campaign, beating Bangladesh twice, sandwiched between victories over Nepal and Afghanistan, taking their win streak to 13 – an achievement which batting coach Naveed Nawaz said gave them confidence ahead of the clash against India.
“We are pretty confident of doing well,” Nawaz said, adding that the players were buying into the process being instilled.
“It's not based on the outcome, we are getting the players to commit to the process rather than looking at whether we win or lose. If we plan to play good cricket and execute our plans and be the best version of themselves in the middle, the result (of the game against India) is going to be favourable for us.”
Sri Lanka will also have the benefit of rest, having last played on Saturday, while India will play for a third straight day after their Super 4 match against Pakistan was pushed into its reserve day yesterday.
“With a team like India, you never know, but obviously they are playing three days in a row," Nawaz told reporters.
“We have got a bit of a break since the last game, so the boys are fresh for tomorrow. That can be good for us."
Sri Lanka's 13th win in a row eclipsed the record for the second most consecutive wins that were held by South Africa, although they are still someway from the record of 21 successive wins currently held by Australia.
A spate of injuries to Sri Lanka’s main bowlers has seen them come into the tournament as underdogs, despite being the defending champions, and that they have made it this far was a testament to their resilience, Nawaz said.
“Our boys are resilient when it comes to handling pressure. This tournament and even the last Asia Cup with a lot of absences from our frontline players, especially from the bowling attack. But having said that, the players who played in the tournament came back as strongly as the regulars, so it shows that our boys are really good under pressure and when it comes to big tournaments.
When it comes to pressure situations, our boys have proven they are capable of handling them,” he added.
He also added that the team had slowly added bench strength, as evidenced by former captain Kusal Janith Perera being unable to break into the team.
“We can see that we have built some bench strength, to have a player like Kusal Janith Perera find it hard to get into the team. It puts pressure on the players in the team because they know that if they don't perform, there are players who can come in and replace them,” Nawaz said.
“It is a big advantage for us, as a team. It gives the players outside the team also the sense that once they break into the team, it is going to be hard to hold onto that place if they don't take the opportunity they get. Those are the situations that help a player grow and improve. Everyone has to raise their bar, because they know there are players outside the team,” he also explained.