Captain wants team to bring smiles to his countrymen who have endured a tough fight with covid-19
“It is really a proud moment for me and the boys,” Vala said. “It has been a long time coming. We have come so close on so many occasions. We are a couple of days away from playing our first World Cup match. The boys are looking pumped up for the game on Sunday. During this pandemic, it will mean a lot for people back home. We are trying to put a smile on their faces.”
PNG will take on co-hosts Oman in the tournament opener on Sunday, a day that Vala, synonymous with PNG’s modern-day teams, has been looking forward to. They have had good acclimatisation too, having arrived in the country more than a month ago for a series of camps, WCL matches and friendlies. The mood, understandably, is upbeat.
“To be honest, we believe in ourselves,” he said. “We want to play to the best of our abilities. We want to express ourselves. We want to make it to the second round to test ourselves against the best teams in cricket. We don’t want this World Cup to be a one-off. We want to keep improving. We want to get the exposure and knowledge against the best teams.”
“We got a lot of confidence from the 2019 World Cup qualifiers,” he said. “We have played a lot of cricket over the last 18 months. We have got better by playing more matches, particularly the ones we played in Oman and Dubai. It has put us in good stead. On Sunday, we can hit the ground running.”
“I think he brought in a lot of structure to the team,” Vala said. “When he first came in, he saw a lot of things were not done properly, so he tried to correct everything. He got us fitter, and in the right state of mind. When we did the little things right, the cricket took care of itself. He played a really big part in getting us to this stage.
“We have a really good coach in Carl Sandri as well. He has been around the Big Bash. He has different ideas. The boys are trying to implement those ideas, they are taking on the challenges, and working with the coaches.”
PNG however know that they have a daunting task at hand, particularly against Bangladesh’s quality spin attack coming up this week. But Vala is also quite confident that they will make themselves proud, and wants his teammates to enjoy the moment.
“We will come up against quality spinners. We have been working hard in training. It is just about executing and expressing ourselves. We have to play with flair. We have to enjoy ourselves.
“We pride ourselves on our fielding. We have to play well in other departments too to become an all-round team. It is all about having fun. We want to leave everything in the field but we want to represent our country with a smile in our face.”
Papua New Guinea
ICC Men’s T20 World Cup
Mohammad Isam is ESPNcricinfo’s Bangladesh correspondent. @isam84