Colombo – Sri Lanka's captain Mahela Jayawardene goes into Sunday's World Twenty20 final confident of winning the title after failing at the last hurdle in three previous world meets.
Sri Lanka made the final of two successive 50-over World Cups in 2007 and 2011, and also the World Twenty20 in 2009, but were unable to win when it mattered most, frustrating fans, former players and media alike.
But Jayawardene said playing the sold-out final on home soil in front of adoring fans at the 35,000-capacity Premadasa stadium in Colombo gave him hope that the team would finally turn the corner.
“It's an amazing feeling,” the accomplished 35-year-old said as the hosts, who beat Pakistan by 16 runs on Thursday night, awaited the winner of Friday's second semi-final between Australia and the West Indies.
“We are all really happy to be part of a very successful group over a period of time. “We have been blessed with four now – although I know we haven't won anything.
“But four finals, it's amazing. In one's career you are lucky enough to play in one final. We are a proud nation and everyone will be behind us on Sunday.”
Jayawardene, who accepted the captaincy for a second stint after Tillakaratne Dilshan stepped down in January, said his team's strategy on Sunday will be different from previous finals.
“They have all had to be approached in different ways,” he said. “One final was in Barbados (2007), one in England (2009) and one was in Mumbai (2011).
“Now we are playing in the Premadasa, so we will approach it differently.
“We play with a very positive mindset. We spoke at the start of the tournament that we would have to play on three different surfaces in Hambantota, Pallekele and now Colombo.
“We had to adapt. It is all about handling tough situations better.”
Sri Lanka have lost just one of their six games in the tournament so far – a seven-overs-a-side rain-affected game against South Africa in Hambantota in the preliminary league.
Jayawardene has himself led from the front with 210 runs at an average of 42, the third highest run-maker behind Australian Shane Watson (242) and Brendon McCullum of New Zealand (212).
Sri Lanka have been further boosted by the match-winning form of unorthodox spinner Ajantha Mendis, who shares the top spot among bowlers with Watson at 11 wickets apiece, and sling-arm fast bowler Lasith Malinga, who has eight scalps.
The wily Jayawardene has already shown he will go to any length to see Sri Lanka end on a high – even changing captains for a match.
Eyebrows were raised when Kumar Sangakkara took up the captaincy for the Super Eights match against England in Pallekele last Monday, even though both Jayawardene and vice-captain Angelo Mathews were part of the playing eleven.
Jayawardene explained later the change was made to prevent him and Mathews from missing out on the semi-finals since both of them were already serving a one-match notice for slow over rates.
But Jayawardene was back at the helm in the semi-final against Pakistan, emerging the main scorer with a polished 42 at the top of the order.
He will again lead on Sunday determined to set the record straight after three close misses under his leadership. – Sapa-AFP