Sa’adi Thawfeeq, in the Daily News, 9 January 2016, with title “Best chance to win a World Cup Wijesuriya”
Roger Wijesuriya, the Sri Lanka under 19 coach believes that the upcoming ICC Under 19 World Cup is the best chance for the country to win a World Cup at this level. Sri Lanka has never won an Under 19 World Cup although they have taken part in the previous ten editions since its inception in 1988. Their best shot at the title was in 2000 when as the host nation they finished runner-up to India.
|Coach Roger Wijesuriya|
Wijesuriya’s belief comes from the fact that the present team that has been selected for the 11th edition of the tournament which will be staged in Bangladesh from January 22 to February 14 is even better than the one he took to the Under 19 World Cup to Malaysia in 2008.On that occasion Sri Lanka went as far as the quarter-finals before losing to New Zealand. At least 10 members of that 15-strong squad went to play for the Sri Lanka senior team or the Sri Lanka ‘A’ side – Dinesh Chandimal, Lahiru Thirimanne, Kusal Perera, Thisara Perera, Ashan Priyanjan, Dilshan Munaweera, Angelo Perera, Sachith Pathirana, Ishan Jayaratane and Roshan Silva.
“To tell you frankly after a long time we have got a very balanced side. If you take the 2008 side and compare it to the present one, we have a better balanced side. In my opinion this is the best chance to grab the World Cup,” Wijesuriya told the Daily News.
The other reason for Wijesuriya’s faith in the side is that from the under 15 level the majority of the team members have been together and playing for a long time. “That makes a huge difference to the side in that manner. If you take the batting Jehan Daniel comes to bat at number eight, the batting depth is very deep. In the bowling if you take we have the likes of Charith Asalanka and Sammu Ashan two spin bowlers in the first five. The bowling option for the captain is very much on the higher side,” said Wijesuriya. “You have to give credit to the selectors also they have given us the side we wanted. We are 100 percent happy and confident to take the step into another era and bring glory to the country.”
In their preparation for the world event Sri Lanka played Pakistan in a home series and won 3-0 last October and ended runner-up to India in a home under 19 tri-series that also featured England. India in fact swept all before winning all their matches and emerging unbeaten champions.
“We have to admit that our batting didn’t click Sammu Asanga and Charith Asalanka the two key players didn’t actually perform. The match where we actually lost on the Duckworth/Lewis rain rule was an eye-opener for the Indian team. They knew that it won’t be easy for them. However I must give credit to the Indian side because their batting is strong,” said Wijesuriya. “They have very good fast bowlers doing well. For the last 10 overs they were operating with their fast bowlers. They have their spinners too but in a long way they have improved their fast bowling battery,” he said.
“The cricket they play is a bit on the higher side but that doesn’t say that the licence is there for them. In the last few matches they started to respect us.” Wijesuriya said that Sri Lanka struggled in the tri-series against India because the openers failed to click.
“We had to push a player like Avishka Fernando into the opener’s slot because of it. Our plan was for Avishka to bat at three as he had against Pakistan,” said Wijesuriya. “From Kaveen Bandara, Kamindu Mendis and Salindu Ushan most likely Kaveen and Kamindu will open, Sammu Ashan at four, Charith Asalanka at five, Wanidu Hasaranga at six, Vishard Randika at seven and Jehan Daniel at eight. That is very much the combination we are looking at for the World Cup.”
Sri Lanka are drawn in Group B with Afghanistan, Canada and two-time champions Pakistan. “I must admit we can’t take Afghanistan lightly. For me every match is very vital. Even the Pakistan side when they came here we beat them but I am telling you it will not be the same Pakistan side that will play us in the World Cup. We can’t sit on our laurels just because we beat them,” cautioned Wijesuriya.
“Bangladesh is also there whoever we meet we have to keep on going. At under 19 level we don’t know the strengths and weaknesses of the teams because we have not played them. Any other international side at senior of ‘A’ level we have seen them and we can study them but at under 19 level it is difficult. That is the difference with this competition,” he said.
The top two teams in each of the four groups qualify for the knockout stages the quarterfinals.
Helping the under 19 cricketers with their preparations were two cricketers from two senior World Cup winning teams. “Lasith Malinga (World T20 winning captain) helped us with the bowling. He had a classroom session and he also came and bowled at the nets helping the fast bowlers in a big way,” said Wijesuriya.
“Kumar Dharmasena also came because I wanted someone from the 1996 World Cup winning team to address the boys. He gave them a pep talk. He told them when you go to the middle you will have to make your own decisions. Malinga said ‘your gut feeling has to do it and finish it’.
“Preparations for this tournament have been going on for a long time. Luckily we got permission not to play the selected boys during the current school season. At the end of the day I always say don’t bury your things and come to the pavilion, there is nothing called right or wrong but give your best shot and come,” said Wijesuriya.
“I am confident even with this lot also there are players who will walk into the senior or ‘A’ sides very quickly. Players like Asalanka, the captain, Sammu Ashan and Avishka are both exciting players, fast bowler Asith Fernando and left-arm spinner Damith Silva. “Vishard is a good wicketkeeper/batsman, Jehan Daniel, the baby of the side has two World Cups to play and Kamindu Mendis also has two World Cups. He is a specialist who can bowl with both arms which are equally effective – off-spin and left-arm spin which gives us an advantage in that manner,” he said.
The team departs for Bangladesh on January 15.