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Sri Lanka happy to enter Champions Trophy as 'underdogs' - Angelo Mathews

Sri Lanka's Angelo Mathews poses with the ICC Champions Trophy during the press conference
Sri Lanka's Angelo Mathews poses with the ICC Champions Trophy during the press conference

Sri Lanka skipper Angelo Mathews said the tag of being 'underdog' will help his team in the upcoming ICC Champions Trophy tournament that kicks-off on 3rd June.

Sri Lanka's only success in the Champions Trophy came way back in 2002 when they jointly shared the title with India following a rain abandoned final at R.Premadasa Stadium in Colombo.

Since then, they failed to cross the group stage in the next three editions before losing on to the defending champions India in the semi-final of the 2013 tournament.

The retirement of Kumar Sangakkara and Mahela Jayawardene hasn't helped their cause as the team is reeling at number seven position in the ICC ODI Rankings behind Bangladesh and the fact that they lost the warm-up game against Scotland will only dent their confidence further.

However, Mathews, who will lead his side in the tournament said the mood is upbeat in the camp and the squad is confident of doing well.

“All the teams are quite even, I think in the past few months we have had a few lapses here and there. Nobody will give us a chance, to be really honest, but we are happy to enter the tournament as underdogs.

“We are confident, we have prepared extremely well. In Sri Lanka and England for the past few days, it’s been really good. Hopefully we can play tomorrow’s practice game (against Australia), and get a good practice out of it.

“All the teams are quite even but it’s on the given day, the guys who make less mistakes will win. It can be England, it can be us, it can be anyone.

“Everyone has got a chance, no one can write anyone off and I’m sure it will be a very exciting tournament.”

Recalling the 2-1 series victory against England in 2014, Mathews believes the team has enough experience in these conditions to go a distance, if they play to their potential.

“We are a team where we stick to our basics. We’ve played pretty well in England, especially in 2014, so we will try to take a leaf out of it.

“We are a pretty young, inexperienced team, but a few of us have played in England. Anyone can change a game at any given stage. We have got the talent, the skill in the team, it’s just that we have to go out there and express ourselves,” he said.

Also returning to the squad will be Lasith Malinga, who last featured in an ODI in November 2015. Even though, Malinga has been seen playing actively for Mumbai Indians in the recently concluded Indian Premier League tournament, there will be questions raised on his fitness level to compete in a 50-over game but Mathews exuded full confidence on his seasoned campaigner.

“(Malinga) is fully fit. We look forward to utilising him in the matches. He is very keen, he got here a few days back. He’s very keen to get on the park. He hasn’t played 50-over games in the recent past but he has played a lot of games in the IPL which is very intense.

“He’s been doing a lot of training as well. He is confident, we are confident as well. We all know he is a match winner, he has proven himself over the past many years. He can win us a game single-handedly, so we are looking forward to it.”

Sri Lanka will play two more practice games against Australia and New Zealand on 26th and 30th May respectively before starting their Champions Trophy campaign against South Africa at The Oval on 3rd June.

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