Lasith Malinga, Sri Lanka's limited overs captain, rued his nation's slide down the Twenty20 International rankings, but backed his players' skills in the format.
Sri Lanka, placed No.9 on the MRF Tyres ICC T20I Team Rankings, missed out on direct qualification for the ICC Men's T20 World Cup 2020 as they were out of the top eight. They will now have to take on seven other teams for a chance to make it to the Super 12 stage.
As former champions – they won in 2014 and were finalists in 2009 and 2012 – it has been a steep fall. "It's really disappointing to need to qualify, because having won the World T20 in 2014, inside five years we've slipped lower than No. 8," Malinga said.
After winning the Test series and sweeping the three ODIs against Sri Lanka, New Zealand will hope to finish on a high in the one-off T20I in Auckland.#NZvSL PREVIEW 👇https://t.co/XtukH9WRBspic.twitter.com/hj24DZd9gw— ICC (@ICC) January 10, 2019
"We have a chance to get into the World Cup by playing qualifiers, but we're not a country that should ever have fallen that far."
The one-off T20I Sri Lanka will play against New Zealand on Friday, 11 January, will be seen as part of the turnaround the team are working towards under Malinga.
"If you look at the players we have, we can build a good team, but we need to put effort into that," said the captain, who is one of the foremost T20 players in the world. "We need to cultivate the skills necessary for T20 ... We need to know as a team which skills should be used in which match situations."
As someone who has 353 wickets from 263 matches in the T20 format, including a best of 6/7, Malinga is well placed to help his team's bowlers develop their skills.
"Bowlers have to understand how to set up an over," he said. "Every ball can't get a wicket. Bowlers have to set up a batsman and take that wicket.
"They have skill, but they're not comfortable using those skills while the over is going on, I feel. In the training sessions, they are really good. But in the match situations, they are lacking confidence. I want to help them learn how to improve that aspect of their game."
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