SL and Bangladesh committed to putting past flare-ups behind them

While Sri Lanka-Bangladesh clashes in the past have occasionally boiled over, both camps, at least for now, expect little more than a competitive series played in the right spirit.

“I am not thinking about the past,” Shanto said, on the eve of the first T20I, in Sylhet. “I think it will be a good series. We are doing everything we can to win this series. I am not feeling pressure about our opponents. We are focused on what we are doing. We want to do what we can control. Every international series has pressure, and that’s also true for our opponents. Everyone is capable of handling this pressure. Like I believe that all of our five or six bowlers can be match-winners.”

Silverwood, too, said that he wanted to forget the past and focus on the future, particularly Sri Lanka’s preparation for the T20 World Cup, which begins in June.

“First and foremost, I expect this to be a very competitive series between two good sides,” he said. “What happened in the past, for me, that’s history. It’s gone. I think what we have to do is, certainly from our perspective, is concentrate on what’s in front of us and remember what we’re aiming for. Obviously we are now in the build-up towards the World Cup. I think all teams now are sort of finalising their sides, their squads give an experience, so ultimately that’s what it is.

“We’re building up to a World Cup, and it’s great that we have such a good competition in front of us to do that, great series to do that in. So, as I said, I’m expecting a very exciting series. There’s some dangerous players on both sides. So I think it’ll be good fun. But as I said, what’s happened in the past is history. It’s about what’s in front of us now.”

But the English coach was quick to point out who he believes are the series favourites.

“Well, obviously I’m going to say Sri Lanka are going to be the favourites. But as I’ve already said, there are two good teams that will both be pushing very hard to win this series. We are all building up to the World Cup now, so we want to start making sure that we’re playing top cricket going into that. So as I said before, I expect this to be very competitive.”

Shanto, for his part, is looking forward to his first series after being named as Bangladesh’s permanent captain in all three formats. The team has done well in T20Is in the last 12 months, including home series wins against England, Ireland and Afghanistan. They even won a T20I in New Zealand in December, for the first time.

“We had a good year in T20Is last year,” Shanto said. “We have improved in this format, and if we keep this up, we can do better in any conditions. I think the 30-35 players who are in the three formats in total, it is very important that they all contribute to the team.

“We have to play as a team. Everyone contributed to the team last year. Whether we believe in each other, that’s important. It was always imperative that we played T20Is just after the BPL. It is easier for our planning as everyone is playing in this format. I believe that we can win this series.

Shanto touched upon his challenges ahead as the new captain, as he aims to build relationships with his players and coaching staff. He believes that the new responsibility will not pull him down as a batter.

“It is a challenging job but planning wouldn’t be too difficult in the three formats. I have to know every cricketer, although we spend time together while playing.

“It is not as if I have to score some extra runs for being the captain. I am a batter first, so my job is to score runs for the team. I would have to do the same when I was not the captain. I want to utilise the responsibility I am given. I don’t have to do a lot of things just because I am the captain.”

For Sri Lanka, Silverwood said that the absence of bowling lynchpin Wanindu Hasaranga, who has been suspendeded for two matches for his outburst against an umpire, and Pathum Nissanka (hamstring injury) will give others an opportunity to step up.

“Wanindu missing two matches is something that we have to deal with,” Silverwood said. “He has accepted his punishment, and all we have to do now is move on. What it does do is create opportunity for other people within the squad to get great game time, leading into the World Cup.

“Pathum is a big loss. I mean, we’ve seen, certainly in the last seven, eight months, he’s become a very, very consistent player at the top of the order for Sri Lanka. And recently we’ve seen some super knocks from him, both in ODI cricket and in T20 cricket. The great thing is I don’t think Pathum will be too long before he’s returning to us.

“He’s a very valuable member of the squad and a very much respected member of the squad. So we’re looking forward to getting back. But as I’ve said before, I mean, this also creates opportunity for people that might not get that game time that may be required, obviously, for a World Cup. So, for me It’s going to provide someone else with game time.”

Mohammad Isam is ESPNcricinfo’s Bangladesh correspondent. @isam84

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