Paudel: Sri Lanka are under more pressure than us

Sri Lanka
The number of upsets – Associate teams beating Full Members – and close finishes in the T20 World Cup 2024 have made Nepal captain Rohit Paudel confident that they can beat an under-pressure Sri Lanka in Lauderhill, Florida, on June 11. It will be the second game for Nepal but a more crucial fixture for Sri Lanka, who are on the brink of elimination after losing their first two matches.

“Yeah, absolutely,” Paudel replied when asked about his hopes of beating Sri Lanka. “If you see in this World Cup, you’ll see that the Associate team is beating Test-playing countries. So, it is a motivation for all of us, especially moving forward to tomorrow’s game. So as a team, we believe that we are going to win tomorrow and the way we have been preparing for the last couple of months and the way we have been playing cricket for the last one and a half years, I think the belief is always there in the team and we are looking forward to tomorrow’s game.

“We want to go tomorrow and showcase our talent in front of the world.”

The two results that will boost Nepal’s confidence will be USA beating Pakistan and Canada prevailing over Ireland, both results from Group A. Even apart from those, Papua New Guinea gave West Indies a scare early in the tournament and Netherlands nearly pulled off another victory against South Africa in a World Cup. Afghanistan beating New Zealand may not count as an “upset” anymore, but the margin of 84 runs against a much higher-ranked team would have defied many expectations.

Paudel said his team would also draw confidence from the fact that it hasn’t been a high-scoring tournament so far and barring the opening game between USA and Canada, venues in the USA have been fairly low scoring. While New York has seen the lowest scores among the three USA grounds, Dallas has also produced scores of 106, 159 and 124 for the teams batting first, after Canada scored 194 in the tournament opener.

“Scoring runs is becoming harder due to drop-in pitches and conditions,” he said. “The conditions in New York and Dallas are different from that in Florida. Florida has hosted the India-West Indies game previously. So, I think the conditions then and now are different and in the two-three days we practiced, the wickets looked good. If we respect the conditions and present our skills, we can beat any team. The team believes that. We are very confident for tomorrow.

“If you look at this tournament, there have been many ups and downs. So, the team believes, and more than us, as a team, the pressure is on the Test-playing nation. We will utilise the pressure, create the pressure and we want to win the game tomorrow. So, if we do the basic things right, I think we are ahead.”

Sri Lanka might have had a tough start to the World Cup with their first two clashes against Full Member sides – South Africa and Bangladesh – and even winning their last two league games may not be enough to make the Super Eights.

“I think team Sri Lanka is under more pressure than us,” Paudel said. “And if you look at the conditions in the USA, there are lots of dot balls being played. Yesterday, India scored only 119 [against Pakistan]. I think overall, if you look at the conditions, whoever scores 140 is successful, and I think that’s the winning score if you look at the games. So, there are dot balls in these conditions. Whoever gets a start, they have to utilise it. Plus, like yesterday’s game, batsmen were scoring 30-40, but they were still not able to utilise the start. So, it’s a little difficult for new batsmen to play. I think as a batsman, whoever starts, we have to capitalise and get the team to win. And as a team, I think we still have that belief. The first game didn’t go as we thought, but still, as a team, we believe that we will win the next game. We are looking forward to it. We are very excited.”

Lauderhill has played host to 15 completed T20Is in the past, the last of which was in August 2023, when the teams batting first – India and West Indies – had scored 178 and 165 but the teams chasing had won on both occasions. Sri Lanka had played two T20Is on this ground back in 2010 but also featured in the two warm-up games there before this World Cup, in which they first lost to Netherlands and then defended 163 against Ireland.

When asked what could be a big threat from Sri Lanka, Paudel said they will have to “tackle” their spinners carefully, who have the exposure of playing “all over the world”.

Nepal will get a spin boost themselves with the addition of their star legspinner Sandeep Lamichhane, who has arrived in the West Indies and is set to play their last two league games against South Africa and Bangladesh in St Vincent. He will miss the game against Sri Lanka, for which Nepal will have 14 players available, because he was denied a US visa twice last month and was a late addition to the Nepal squad for only two games, unless they make it to the Super Eights.

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