x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 21 January 2018

Lahore tragedy instilled a collective belief

After March's tragic events in Lahore, 2009 has been a difficult year for Sri Lanka's cricketers - the whole team believed we wouldn't come out of that situation.

After March's tragic events in Lahore, 2009 has been a difficult year for Sri Lanka's cricketers - the whole team believed we wouldn't come out of that situation. In the following weeks, everyone had sleepless nights, nagging doubts and asked themselves "is it all worth it?" Now, less than six months later, we are celebrating our first Test series win against Pakistan.

The victory came despite losing both wicket-keeper Prasanna Jayawardene and spinner Muttiah Muralitharan to injuries, just two days before the first Test. Missing two such high-calibre players was a big blow. But our captain, Kumar Sangakkara, made the tough calls and picked new faces. We engineered a 2-0 series victory which evoked everything we have learned as a group since the tragedy; it has fostered the belief, confidence and quality that exists in our emerging team. It has instilled a collective belief that anything is possible. We now fear nothing in life or on the pitch, every day is important and we're enjoying ourselves on the field.

Better still, we're doing it with our own distinctive brand of cricket. Sri Lanka do not play like Australia or India - we play the Sri Lankan way. A combination of natural ability, courage and instinct make our style of play unique; we must harness it, as we did against Pakistan. Behind in the first two Tests, we believed Pakistan were susceptible to collapsing if we applied enough pressure. We rallied to win both.

With Pakistan only needing 170 to win the first Test, the team came together and never gave up. It was one of the most focused sessions of cricket I have ever played in and showed our solidarity, confidence and ability. Pakistan were 300 for two in the second Test, but our hard work continued. We knew we would create something. United, we fought for everything. Then, we batted out five sessions to draw the third Test and claim an historic series.

Under Sangakkara we have a natural leader - both on and off the field - and are building momentum. We are in the habit of winning at just the right time. We haven't played many ODIs in the last eight months and these matches (five ODIs against Pakistan, starting today) are vital for our build-up and confidence ahead of the Champions Trophy. After reaching the Twenty20 World Cup final, we know we have what it takes to play well.

It's great for us to go straight into the one-dayers after a Test series victory but the Pakistan one-day side will be completely different. They are a great team with talented individuals and they'll be wounded by the Test losses. When I was captain, I always tried to keep my captain and batsman duties separate. However, as a senior player, more time in the nets has not only boosted my batting, but allowed me to help along the junior members.

We need to maintain the momentum and it's important for our youngsters that we build up the team's culture, define their individual roles in the overall unit and keep progressing. We know we will lose at some point, but we will not be disheartened or grumpy. Everyday day is a new one and we're ready, focused and driven for our next match - we're loving cricket again. sports@thenational.ae