Dhaka: Many may see Thursday’s World T20 semi-final as a repeat of the last edition’s final, but Sri Lanka coach Paul Farbrace doesn’t fall in the group.
He has clearly demarcated it in terms of past and present and is not ready to think about the former and spoil the job at hand.
Asked during a media conference about the Lankans meeting the West Indies again in a knockout match after the 2012 final, Farbrace said: “The simple fact is that that was then and this is now... I’m not going to share our plans with you other than to say that the win against New Zealand was a massive boost for us. We felt that we were 15-20 runs short and our bowling performance showed the fight and the spirit in the team.”
Reminded that Sri Lanka not only lost that final two years back, they also the practice match against the Caribbean side in the lead-up to the tournament, Farbrace said: “In the practice match, we left two of our main bowlers out on purpose. We gave other people an opportunity.
The last game will have no bearing whatsoever. Twenty20 is about whoever turns up better on that particular day. Form goes out of the window. It’s about making sure we’re ready and focused. What happened two years ago won’t even be talked about, I can assure you.”
While that may sound confident, it doesn’t mean that Farbrace is taking Darren Sammy’s team lightly. “We watched the game West Indies’ match against Pakistan and they are an excellent side playing good cricket. Our preparation for the semi-final needs to be as good as it possibly can be.”
Faf du Plessis at a training session, in Dhaka, on Wednesday. (AFP)
On last-match hero Rangana Herath, whose five wickets helped Sri Lanka defend a modest total, Farbrace said: “I’m not sure Herath will ever find a wicket more helpful than the one he found in Chittagong the other evening. We’ve all talked about the fact that wickets have become slower over the course of the competition. But the tough thing for us in Chittagong was that the wickets got slower and drier and the outfield got wetter and wetter.
“We know coming here that the wickets will turn. But again, it’s about making sure you get the right pace.”
The coach was all praise for captain Dinesh Chandimal as well. “Chandi is a very exciting young cricketer. He’s someone with a lot of good cricket thoughts. He’s got an excellent cricket brain and he was chosen because of those factors. He’s a young cricketer finding his way.”
But isn’t he worried with Sri Lanka’s record of choking in the business end of a tournament? “You could look at it that way. You could also say they’ve done really well in most competitions and got to finals. That’s where teams want to be. We had a big win here in the Asia Cup a few weeks ago.”
“The other night, a lot of people would’ve written us off at the halfway stage against New Zealand and once Brendon McCullum went, you could see the absolute belief in our team that they could win the game from there. Games like that give you so much confidence going into big games,” he said.
On senior pros Mahela Jayawardene and Kumar Sangakkara, he said: “Mahela played a fantastic innings against England. Sanga’s a very dangerous player. He hasn’t had much opportunity in this competition but you always expect big things from them. They’ve never let their team or their country down.”
West Indies captain Sammy, like Farbrace, is happy living in the present. Asked if the 2012 triumph over the same opposition would have any bearing on Thursday’s game, Sammy said: “For us, it’s another game of cricket. Whenever we play tournaments against different opposition on the given day, we focus solely on that opposition. Cricket is not about what happens before, it’s what happens on a cricket field on that present day. We defeated them in the 2012 final and in the practice game here, but they have played some good cricket and we have a lot of respect for them.
“But at the same time we know what we have to do to win. While practising, we want to focus on the way we want to play the game and hopefully, we will execute our plans and improve on the areas that need improving.”
Hailing the team spirit Sammy said: “We are peaking at the right time, doing some good things with our team spirit and our never-say-die attitude. Hopefully, that will be contagious. Hopefully, we will have another good semi-final like we did in the last World T20.”
How confident is he about defending their title? Sammy said: “When we left the Caribbean, we had that as the motivation factor for us. In the last World T20, the mantra was one team, one goal and the mission was to win the title. This year the mantra is the same: One team, one goal, but the mission is to retain the title.”
“It’s something that no team has done before and we are very confident that we can do it.”
On his own match-winning prowess, Sammy said: “I just stay calm. Most of my big partnerships have come with one of our most experienced T20 players. We feed off each other. For me, it has never been about whether I am the captain or not. I just enjoy playing for the West Indies. Not many people get to wake up in the morning and get to do something they love.”