HAMBANTOTA, Sri Lanka (Reuters) - Sri Lanka, beaten in three ICC limited overs finals since triumphing in the 1996 World Cup and 2002 Champions Trophy they hosted, hope being back on home soil will help them avoid the chokers tag in the World Twenty20 starting on Tuesday.
Mahela Jayawardene's side play the opening match of the tournament against Zimbabwe in Hambantota aiming to go one better than in the 2009 edition and the last two 50-over World Cups.
"The people will back us and I've told the boys to try and enjoy the occasion. It's great to have a World Cup playing in your home territory," Jayawardene told reporters.
"If we enjoy the atmosphere we'll express ourselves much better out there."
The hosts are among a raft of teams who could easily win the tournament, which concludes on October7 in Colombo.
Holders England beat Australia by nine runs in a warmup on Monday while South Africa defeated New Zealand by the same score and Pakistan hammered India by five wickets.
Sri Lanka's buildup has been mixed, beating West Indies but losing to India.
"A lot of people have asked us why we have choked in the finals (in recent years)," added Jayawardene.
"I'd rather be in that situation than get knocked out in the first or second round. It means we are doing something pretty good in big tournaments and we are handling pressure pretty well and getting to those situations where we can win tournaments."
The captain dispelled any fears about an uneven wicket for the Group C opener against minnows Zimbabwe.
"The wicket looks really good and fresh and I am pretty confident it...should have enough runs on it," he said.
Editing by Mark Meadows