Sri Lanka coach Mickey Arthur believes "the sky's the limit" for his team at the 2022 T20 World Cup despite failing to reach the semi-finals of the ongoing tournament in the UAE.
The 2014 champions bowed out after winning all their three matches in the qualifying round before losing three of their five Super 12 games.
Sri Lanka ended their campaign with a fighting 20-run win over the West Indies in Abu Dhabi on Thursday, ousting the defending champions from the race for the last four.
"Hopefully, 2022 is a good year for this team because if we continue to grow and continue working, then the sky is the limit," Arthur, who took over as coach in late 2019, told AFP.
"I am so happy with the progress of this team.
"The young boys have really stood up and been absolutely amazing. The improvement and the development in the last six months has been far more than I thought. I am so stoked and happy with the way this team is playing.
"I really believe that our young players are going to turn into stars."
Arthur, who has also coached South Africa, Australia and Pakistan, said he impressed upon his players that there is a long road ahead before the 2022 World Cup in Australia.
"As I said to the boys last night, this is just the beginning of the journey, who knows what we can achieve."
The 53-year-old South African added: "We have seen (Wanindu) Hasaranga just dominate, he has been brilliant," said Arthur of the 24-year-old leg-spinner, the number one bowler in the Twenty20 international rankings after taking 16 wickets in eight matches at this World Cup.
"Hasaranga is a special cricketer. He has the ability to win matches, obviously with the ball but can do wonders in the field and do well with the bat. Above all, he is a very good, humble guy and works incredibly hard on his game."
"Then we have Charith Asalanka and Pathum Nissanka who are both outstanding batsmen and these two are the next generation for Sri Lanka.
Asalanka, 24, top-scored for Sri Lanka with 231 runs in six innings while 23-year-old Nissanka managed 221 with three half centuries.
"Chamika Karunaratne has been outstanding ever since he has come in, he has chipped in either with the bat or ball and in the field. He has become a standout player," said the coach of the 25-year-old fast bowling all-rounder.
Meanwhile, Arthur said he was impressed by Pakistan who have won four in four, becoming the first team to reach the semi-finals.
"I am just so impressed with the way Pakistan have played. I got them as boys and you know their development has been amazing and they are now men," said Arthur of a Pakistan team which he coached from 2016 to 2019.
"Babar Azam has gone from strength to strength and he is wonderful to watch. Shaheen Shah Afridi is world class. There are not many better new ball bowlers in the world at the moment.
"I take a lot of pride watching them perform because of what I saw in them in terms of potential, they are now showing the rest of the world that they are a world class team.
By: Shahid Hashmi / AFP