Series Win In Australia Hugely Satisfying: Upul Tharanga

February 25, 2017

The Sri Lankan cricket team returned home to a heroes' welcome in the early hours of Friday after their thrilling series win over Australia. Led by Upul Tharanga in the absence of injured skipper Angelo Mathews, Sri Lanka won the first two T20Is at the MCG and Geelong - both off the last ball - to seal the series with a game to spare.

Australia bounced back to win the final game in Adelaide, but Sri Lanka won the series 2-1.

Tharanga became only the third Sri Lankan captain after Kumar Sangakkara (ODIs in 2009) and Angelo Mathews (T20Is in 2013) to win a series in Australia.

"Prior to the series, we had been whitewashed in ODIs in South Africa, so the confidence levels were not that great. The chips were down and the morale of the team wasn't that good. But we knew that we had won the T20 series in South Africa and towards the tail end of the ODI series, our batting was clicking," Tharanga told Cricbuzz.

"My role as captain was to get the team in believing in ourselves. There was lot of backing from the coaching staff, the selectors and Sri Lanka Cricket. I try to keep the team united. In a team you find various types of individuals and it's important to handle them all well. Once you get the team playing as one unit, the other things fall in line. I have always found that when captaining, if you depend on a few stars too much, it's difficult to move forward as a team."

Tharanga was brought in to captain Sri Lanka for the tri-nation series in Zimbabwe also involving West Indies when both Mathews and Dinesh Chandimal were injured. Tharanga is an experienced leader in domestic cricket as he has captained NCC for several seasons.

"Winning a series in Australia is hugely satisfying. Australia is the toughest place to play cricket. They are an aggressive team and if you give them the slightest sniff, they are all over you. The way we finished off the first two game was very satisfying and several individuals contributed towards our series win."

While Tharanga is Sri Lanka's most experienced batsman having made his debut in 2005, aged 20, the return of Lasith Malinga, Sri Lanka's premier bowler, who was out of action due to a knee injury for one year, was also vital.

"Lasith is crucial to our side. His ability to finish off the death overs well was vital. He controlled things extremely well towards the end. Not just with his bowling, but given his experience in T-20 cricket, his input as a senior player is important for the team," Tharanga noted.

Tharanga also praised the efforts of middle order batsman Asela Gunaratne, the Player of the Series. Gunaratne, smashed 52 off 41 deliveries in the first game and in the series winning second encounter, his unbeaten 84 off 46 balls made the difference after the visitor were reduced to 40 for five inside five overs.

"Asela has been a consistent performer for Army for many seasons. We have seen him winning games single-highhandedly for Army and he is their main batsman. He has got lot of experience in domestic cricket and he was the find of the tour for us. He is going to be a crucial guy for our middle order in the future," Tharanga noted.

"I was also very impressed with the attitude of Niroshan Dickwella. He is not afraid to take on the bowling and when he gives us good starts, the team feels better," Tharanga further said.

"Those two guys are going to be crucial for us moving forward. Their consistent is the key and both of them have very good temperament as well. They are young but they have all the right ingredients that could make them future stars of Sri Lankan cricket," Tharanga went onto say.

Tharanga also acknowledged the massive support the Sri Lankans received from their expatriate community, especially in Melbourne.

"I always say that when we play in Melbourne, we feel like playing at home. The fans turn up in their numbers and their support is crucial for us."


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