Sri Lanka skipper Dasun Shanaka said several of his players having competed in the 2021 edition of the Indian Premier League in the UAE had played a vital role in the side defeating Pakistan by 23 runs in the Asia Cup final at the Dubai International Stadium on Sunday.
Shanaka added that the MS Dhoni-led Chennai Super Kings (CSK) had lifted the IPL 2021 trophy despite losing the toss to Kolkata Knight Riders, and there were ample lessons from that contest to not be disheartened when Pakistan won the toss.
After Pakistan won the toss, they sent Sri Lanka to bat. The islanders, despite losing five wickets for just 58 on the board in the ninth over, still managed to amass 170/6, which turned out to be the winning total.
Traditionally due to the dew factor, which comes into play in day/night matches, teams winning the toss in the desert usually elect to field first, and Pakistan too did the same by sending Sri Lanka to bat.
Shanaka said his side took lessons from CSK's win against KKR in 2021, where, despite being at the disadvantage after being asked to bat first, Dhoni's side won the title.
"If I go back to IPL 2021, it was Chennai (Super Kings) who won the final after batting first. These youngsters (team-mates) know the conditions and situation really well," said Shanaka after the final.
"After losing five wickets, Hasaranga-Rajapaksa made a difference. Upfront, Chamika and DDS (Dhananjaya de Silva) batted really well too."
Shanaka added that though a score of 170 is a "tricky total" he had confidence in his youngsters.
"(Defending) 170 is always a tricky total. It was all about nerves. I knew the youngster can always deliver. He (pace bowler Pramod Liyanagamage) can go wrong at the start, but we have given him the trust and belief," added Shanaka.
Liyanagamage came up with an inspired spell (4/34), dismantling the top order to emerge as the hero in Sri Lanka's title triumph.
Shanaka said the massive eight-wicket loss in the Group B match against Afghanistan had spurred the side and there was a serious discussion among the group to iron out the flaws.
"It (loss to Afghanistan on 27 August) could happen to any good team. It happened to us for a good reason. We had serious discussions after that. We have players with good calibre, and they stood up well. That's where we became champions.”
"The fielding improved a lot by the time we reached the final. We made mistakes earlier, but final is always the final. We were 100 per cent today, credit to players and coaching staff. I must thank the SL (Sri Lanka) cricket board for supporting us and backing us, not to forget the selectors," added Shanaka.
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