NEW DELHI: Skipper Angelo Mathews pleaded for patience from Sri Lankan cricket fans and administrators after the reigning champions crashed out of the World Twenty20 at the group stages.
Sri Lanka's surrender of the trophy they won in 2014 is further evidence of their decline in the last two years, a process accelerated by the retirements of batting legends Kumar Sangakkara and Mahela Jayawardene.
Now down at eight in the T20 rankings, Sri Lanka had a disastrous showing at the recent Asia Cup and came into the sixth edition of the World T20 tournament after recently changing their coach and captain.
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Following a less than convincing win over minnows Afghanistan in their opening match, they were then badly beaten by the West Indies before Saturday's narrow 10-run defeat to England.
Mathews, who is already Sri Lanka's Test captain, was appointed skipper of the T20 team on the eve of the tournament after veteran fast bowler Lasith Malinga failed to shake off a knee injury.
"It's been a disappointing few months for all of us. We have let down our fans, we let down the whole country. And we haven't played good cricket at all. We are really disappointed," he said at a press conference after Saturday's defeat.
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"All we can do is stick to the combination, not try and change the team too much. Try to pick about 20 players and, you know, revalue then after six months, give them the opportunity to settle down and then try and see what they have come up with in term of performances."
Sri Lanka's selectors were all sacked just ahead of the tournament, adding to the sense of turmoil within Sri Lankan cricket after South African Graham Ford returned last month to take over as team coach.
Ford has warned that Sri Lanka faces a "huge" rebuilding task with other veteran match-winners such as spinner Rangana Herath, 38, and opener Tillakaratne Dilshan, 39, also expected to step away in the near future.
The retirements of Jayawardene and Sangakkara, the two highest run-scorers in the history of Sri Lankan Test cricket, have added to the burden on Mathews who is now the team's premier batsman.
After playing a brave innings of 73 in the defeat against England after seeing his side reduced to 15 for 4, Mathews said that everyone had to accept that it would take time to fill such a big void.
"Hasty decisions will not solve this matter, so we have got to try and be patient," he said.
All-rounder Thisara Perera said on Friday that Sri Lanka could take years to get over the retirement of Sangakkara and Jayawardene while warning that Malinga was irreplaceable.
Perera described the slingy Malinga as a one of a kind, saying a player such as him would "never, never come" again.
Although they are out of the running for the semi-finals, Sri Lanka still have one last group match against South Africa, who are also eliminated, on Monday in New Delhi.
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