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Twenty equal countries: Inspired Rohit Paudel targets Nepal’s Sri Lanka toppling

As T20 World Cup 2024 attention turns to Lauderhill, refreshed captain Rohit Paudel feels his Nepal side can flourish in the Florida sun, and turn over a wounded Sri Lanka staring down the barrel of an early exit.

By Daniel Beswick in Lauderhill

Nepali captain Rohit Paudel believes a move to Florida and the skillset of his squad in the USA's south-east point to a potential upset of Sri Lanka in their Men’s T20 World Cup meeting on Tuesday.

Having watched the Sri Lankans drop their first two matches, Nepal travel to Florida refreshed, having enjoyed a week’s break after their opening defeat to the Netherlands in Dallas.

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By contrast, the only reprieve for the Sri Lankans thus far has come from elsewhere in Group D. Table-topping South Africa’s win over Bangladesh in New York means Wanindu Hasaranga’s side still have hope of progress over the other three teams in the group, though a defeat to Nepal would extinguish any hope.

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Netherlands overcame Nepal by six wickets in Dallas with their bowlers putting on quite an exhibition.

In front of a strong Nepali press contingent in Lauderhill, Paudel considers the team a good chance of ending Sri Lanka’s tournament tilt, invigorated by the break and other results across the tournament.

“The 20 teams are equally balanced. And yeah, (our plans is) just go out and express ourselves.

“(Watching other upsets) is the motivation for all of us, especially moving forward to tomorrow's game.

“As a team we believe that we are going to win tomorrow and the way we have been preparing the last couple of months, and the way we have been playing for the last year and a half, I think the belief is always there in their team."

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In preparation for the fixture, Rohit feels the break has given the side perspective, both on their more-favoured opponents, and the ability to assess match trends and conditions from the outside looking in.

“The gap (between games) is very good, especially to prepare ourselves as you can see after we lost against The Netherlands.

“It’s helpful for us, especially to prepare and adapt to this situation, and I believe that we have utilised the sessions here and we are very well prepared for tomorrow's game.”

Despite their slow start, Sri Lanka still come into the fixture as heavy favourites, with the craftiness of their spin-bowling group the clear strength earmarked by their opposing captain.

Looking to the threats of Wanindu Hasaranga, Maheesh Theekshana and the all-rounders ready to chip in, Paudel wants his men to attack in response.

“Sri Lanka have very good spinners who play all over the world, so as a bowling unit I think they are doing well. Basically, we need to tackle that part.

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

On the other side, Sri Lanka hope the move to Florida will bring a level of clarity to their campaign, reeling from defeats in New York and Dallas. The side also fell to the Dutch in Florida in an official warm-up, though the side was heavily rotated for the fixture.

Sri Lanka fast bowling coach Aaqib Javed says teams across the groups have been forced to pivot in their plans having watched the tournament thus far, more so on a batting front, with teams waiting in the shadows in this tournament ambushing bigger opponents.

"I think honestly if you look at the pitch (in Lauderhill and reflecting on New York), you have to be very careful especially as better what to adopt, what to leave out and I think the best plan is to go out there and assessing the situation and the conditions are the key.

"The beauty of this World Cup is that you cannot take easy to anything. We have seen some outstanding results from the Associate teams."

A loss in what is the first tournament match at Central Broward County Cricket Ground in Lauderhill would be an unwanted trifecta for the Sri Lankans, having lost in New York and Dallas to South Africa and Bangladesh respectively.

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Javed insists Sri Lanka's best is enough to beat anyone at the tournament, though it will be handling the pressure, this time as clear favourites, that will go towards proving their credentials.

"When you are playing any international game, there is always a pressure. But now the players and the batters and bowlers, they know that on these pitches you don't need to try much. Just play the basic, basic game. Best plan to bowl on this pitch, they just hit the deck hard. That's it. No experiments.

"You can't take anything easy, the team which keep their discipline and play their A game, that is important and we hope for the best, and the best team should win. Whoever plays the better cricket."

Paudel meanwhile dares to dream, excited to play in front of strong Nepali support, with the pressure on the opposition, and on a wicket with potential to help his batters.

"I think team Sri Lanka is under more pressure than us.

"I believe that the conditions in Florida and the wicket is very good.

"We believe that it will be a high-scoring and good game. So, we're looking forward for tomorrow's game.

"It's a privilege for us (to play for the fans), and so we want to play our best cricket and make them proud and happy.

"I think it would be a great gift from us to our country and it would be a motivation for all of us. We want to go tomorrow and express ourselves and grab that first win for us."

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