Sri Lanka boast a somewhat experimental side, with many senior players opting out of the T20 series over concerns of returning to Lahore, the location of the 2009 bus attack.
Pakistan clinch series but Sri Lanka remain 'motivated' as Lahore prepares to host final T20
They failed to win a limited-overs match in seven attempts against Pakistan in UAE, and the Twenty20 series is already lost.
But Sri Lanka’s players will still be highly motivated when they arrive in Lahore for the last match of the series, according to Nic Pothas, the coach.
The tourists, down 2-0 in the series, will have nothing to play for in the match at the Qaddafi Stadium in Lahore on Sunday, other than pride.
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That counts for everything for this particular set of players, though, according to Pothas.
After a number of senior players signalled their intention not to travel to Pakistan for the finale, Sri Lanka’s selectors named a raft of young, untested players in their place.
Although the batting has betrayed similar failings to those of their more celebrated seniors, at least the youngsters showed fight in the two losses at Zayed Cricket Stadium on Thursday and Friday nights.
They appeared to have a rare win in the second secured, only for Shadab Khan to ruin their revival with a six three balls from the end, to set up the series-clinching win for Pakistan.
Pothas, though, said the manner in which his youthful side had performed was uplifting, ahead of the trip to Lahore.
“I don’t think it would matter where they were going or what they were doing, so long as they were representing their team and their country, you will never struggle to motivate this lot,” Pothas said.
“The thing I am proudest of is how we frightened them. The way Pakistan’s players celebrated after winning that game of cricket against that bunch of guys, makes me very proud.
“This team arrived three or four days ago, and their attitude, effort, passion, I can’t fault it. They have set a great example for what it should be like to represent your country, and how valuable it is to play for your country.”
Pothas, who is the interim coach holding the fort before Sri Lanka Cricket appoint a full time head coach, said the T20 side had set the standard for the country’s cricketers.
“One thing you can’t change is people’s character, you pick character, and teach skill,” he said. “You put the right characters in a room, it doesn’t matter what their level of skill is, they will always compete. That is our challenge.
“From now on, that is the standard. If you are representing Sri Lanka, you have a responsibility to the fans to make an effort. These guys have made them very proud.”
Sunday’s match will be the first fixture between two leading international teams since cricket was exiled from Pakistan in 2009.
Sarfraz Ahmed, Pakistan’s captain, hopes Sri Lanka’s players will be welcomed by the home supporters.
“Our youngsters are putting up big performances,” Sarfraz said. “We back them, our coaching staff backs them and they are coming good even in high pressure situations.
“It is good that we have won the series now, but we are looking forward to the game in Lahore. Hopefully the ground is full and the people support Sri Lanka as well.”