Dubai, September 12: Sri Lanka's Asia Cup winning hero Bhanuka Rajapaksa, whose stellar show with the bat played a pivotal role in his side's sensational Asia Cup victory, has dedicated the title to his crisis-hit island nation.
Sri Lanka defeated Pakistan by 23 runs in the summit clash on Sunday (September 11) night to clinch the Asia Cup crown after 2014, their sixth overall.
Batting first, Sri Lanka were reduced to 67 for 5, but made a brilliant turnaround riding on Rajapaksa (71 off 45 balls) and Wanindu Hasaranga (36 off 21 balls) to reach a competitive 170 for 6.
"We always wanted to show the world - a couple of decades back, we had aggression in our side, and we wanted to create those moments (again) as a unit," a beaming Rajapaksa said at the post match press conference.
"Looking forward, we want to keep up this momentum ahead of the World Cup. With the crisis happening back home, this is a tough time for all the Sri Lankans, but hope we brought some smiles on the faces of our people."
"This is to the whole nation; they were waiting for this for so long," a smiling Rajapaksa added.
Sri Lanka clinched the much-needed Asia Cup title in the backdrop of the country's worst economic crisis coupled with political unrest.
Sitting beside Rajapaksha was Sri Lanka's captain Dasun Shanaka and the 31-year-old praised his teammates for responding so well throughout the tournament despite losing to Afghanistan in their tournament opener.
"After that first loss, we had a serious discussion," Shanaka said.
"We knew we had the talent, but it was about applying those in game scenarios and all the players stood up. It's the environment we created as a team and coaching staff that has paid off," he added.
The Sri Lankan skipper also had a message for the fans back home following the title win.
"Believe in our cricketers. A lot of bad things are going around. As cricketers, they too should enjoy their lives as well, not spreading bad things. They have private lives too. Keep believing, that is the key. As a captain, I give confidence to the players, (whatever) I can. I can't ask more than that," Shanaka said.
Shanaka further said that the Asia Cup win could be a stepping stone for greater things to come for Sri Lanka cricket, which is going through a transition phase for a long time.
"Even two-three years back, the team used to play good cricket, but the winning factor wasn't there," he said.
"This could be the turnaround in our cricket, this lot can continue to play for five-six years, which is a very good sign as well.
"The World Cup qualifiers will also help because it will allow us to play in that conditions before the main tournament happens. It will be really good (opportunity for us)," he added.
With a morale-boosting Asia Cup silverware now in their kitty, Shanaka said the same unit can achieve greater success in future.
"It's not like that. When it comes to India-Pakistan, we know it's a different game. Our cricketing history is also good, so we didn't have anything to prove about us being a good team," he said.
"The only thing is we weren't probably ranked high enough, but with this team, we can do better and become that high-ranking team," Shanaka signed off with a smile.