Sri Lanka's decimation by India in the Asia Cup final in September could potentially have dented the confidence of the players, which led to another crushing defeat in their World Cup match against Rohit Sharma's side here on November 2, conceded their batting coach Naveed Nawaz.
Sri Lanka could only make 50 runs in the Asia Cup final in Colombo and India overhauled the target in just the seventh over, inflicting a crushing 10-wicket defeat on the hosts.
In the World Cup match here on November 2, India thrashed the Islanders by 302 runs after notching 357/8 and then bundling out Kusal Mendis's side for 55 runs, Sri Lanka's lowest-ever total in the tournament.
"I thought we (had) flushed (the Asia Cup loss out of our minds) and ended it. We talked about it with those guys as a playgroup, we completely removed it from their heads. We emphasised to them the importance of approaching the upcoming matches without dwelling on it (Asia Cup loss)," Nawaz said following the loss on Thursday.
"However, I think that such an incident (Asia Cup loss) could potentially affect their confidence. Otherwise, in this tournament, we haven't witnessed the ball being attacked in such a manner before. This is the first time I've seen this in this World Cup competition.
"Indeed, there is certainly a skill gap, which is why we had to participate in the World Cup qualifier matches before entering the main World Cup competition. This gap became particularly evident when we faced the top teams. Additionally, I believe there are a few shortcomings in our batting lineup," he added.
Nawaz said the Sri Lanka cricketers would benefit from a full-time psychologist.
"About two or three months ago, before we began the qualifier matches, we did bring in a psychologist to address these issues. But, unfortunately, it didn't continue. We have limited experienced individuals in this subject in Sri Lanka, even though there is one person working on it through the ministry of sports." He indicated that as coaches they could not perform all the tasks, and that specific people were requited for specific jobs.
"As coaches, we do face certain limitations. We can get involved in some things and we can't interfere in everything. We must respect that not all players may openly discuss their issues," he said.
The coach also added that Sri Lankan cricket is not in decline, but in a rebuilding phase and many new players are "still learning the trade".
This is the third time India have dismiss Sri Lanka below 100 runs this year, the previous two occasions being in Thiruvananthapuram in January, where they were decimated for 73 and India achieved its biggest-ever ODI win by 317 runs, and the Asia Cup final, where the Islanders were bundled out for 50 runs.
"It's (batting) a cause for concern, for sure. But I don't see it as the decline of Sri Lanka cricket. We've got a young group of players, we've got only a few guys who have played over 100 ODIs here in this group as well," Nawaz said.
"It's a rebuilding stage where we are. A couple of new players are still learning the trade, I would say. We have some exciting prospects back home and also in this group and I hope they'll take every opportunity to learn from the mistakes and move forward and do well in the future," said Nawaz, who played one Test and three ODIs for Sri Lanka between 1998 and 2002.
Nawaz said with Sri Lanka's campaign all but over in the World Cup, they will turn their attention to winning the remaining two games in order to finish in the top-eight and qualify for the Champions Trophy in 2025.
"It's going to be important that we finish above the eight to qualify for the Champions Trophy. We've got to find a factor to motivate the boys and keep them alive because we had the same issue in June when we played the World Cup qualifiers," he said.
Sri Lanka had come through the qualification round in this World Cup and Nawaz said the players will be motivated for the matches to follow.
"There was no guarantee when we went to Zimbabwe to qualify for the World Cup. We've crossed that barrier and we've got a pretty young team. We will get the boys motivated and get back in and somehow see what we can do in the next two games, try, and bring out our best cricket," he said.
Nawaz took the responsibility for the batting debacle.
"100 per cent, I mean there are areas that have worked and there are areas that have not worked so as coaches we are all responsible for whatever happens," he said.
Nawaz praised India's relentless fast-bowling attack, which snuffed out Sri Lanka's batting.
"We've faced them in the Asia Cup final as well as today. I've seen the bowling attack, (Jasprit) Bumrah, (Mohammed) Siraj, and of course (Mohammed) Shami. They're very skilful. They always get the batsman to play the ball, and the ball's always attacked on the stumps," he said.
"They all can swing the ball both ways and also, we have seen their death-over skills, the middle as well as the death. So, I guess, it may be one of the best bowling attacks for India in recent times," he said.
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