The Sri Lanka captain, Mahela Jayawardene, is unfazed that a host nation has never won the World Twenty20 tournament and has claimed his team have every chance of pulling off the feat. "There's always a first time, isn't there?" said Jayawardene yesterday ahead of Sri Lanka taking on Zimbabwe in the opening match in Hambantota today. "No one has done it, so maybe it's our time to turn it around and make it first."
South Africa are the other team in Sri Lanka's Group C, with the top two advancing to the Super Eight. Because of the seedings, Sri Lanka are assured of avoiding their two key Asian rivals, India and Pakistan, until the semi-finals.
India won the inaugural tournament in 2007 in South Africa, followed by Pakistan winning in England in 2009. England are the defending champions after defeating Australia in the final in the Caribbean in 2010. "We're one of the favourites, we are part of the pack," Jayawardene insisted. "You know if we get into a good momentum we could go all the way. Sri Lanka is a cricket-crazy country and the expectations would be high, we have to accept that."
Jayawardene is the top-scorer for Sri Lanka in the shortest form of the game with 981 runs in 37 matches. He has also scored one of the two Twenty20 centuries for Sri Lanka. With the likes of Tillakaratne Dilshan and Kumar Sangakkara, who both have also scored more than 900 T20 runs, Sri Lanka have a formidable batting line-up. Ajantha Mendis returns from a back injury to strengthen Sri Lanka's spin attack and, with Thisara Perera establishing himself as an all-rounder, the hosts look a balanced side.
But Jayawardene recognised that Zimbabwe "can be competitive and attacking. We cannot be complacent."
TV Sky Sports 1, from 2.30pm
Umpires Ian Gould (Eng) and Rod Tucker (Aus)
Odds Sri Lanka 1-9 Zimbabwe 5-1
Group A India v Afghanistan (11am)
Group B Australia v Ireland (3pm)