By Aakash Kumar
New Delhi, May 26 (IANS) Sri Lanka are entering this year’s World Cup tournament as underdogs. The 1996 World Cup champions have not been in the best of their forms ever since the 2015 edition of the showpiece event when they failed to qualify for the semi-finals.
In the last four years, Sri Lanka have managed to win only four out of the 20 ODI series they have played. They have seen far too many changes in their leadership role and have also not been able to find suitable replacements of legends like Kumar Sangakkara and Mahela Jayawardane.
In the last series they played in South Africa, Sri Lanka were whitewashed in the five-match ODI series and thus, don’t take much of a confidence leading into the World Cup.
IANS does a SWOT analysis of the Sri Lanka World Cup squad:
By far, one of Sri Lanka’s strength in this World Cup will be their pace attack led by veteran Lasith Malinga. Malinga (35) may have slowed down with age but his slingshot action and variations are still hard to pick and can definitely make any batsman have a run for his money.
Malinga was instrumental when he bowled a breath-taking final over to lead Mumbai Indians to their fourth IPL title and Sri Lanka fans would be hoping he does the same in the World Cup in England and Wales. Also, Sri Lanka have the luxury of experienced campaigners like Suranga Lakmal and Thisara Perera who can win a match on their own at any given day.
One of the biggest weaknesses of the Sri Lanka squad going into the World Cup is their inability to play as a team, especially as a batting. The side has been hit by injuries and their batting unit has not been able to deliver on most of the occasions – a reason for their downfall in limited-overs cricket in recent times.
Also, the inexperience of their skipper Dimuth Karunaratne can play a huge role when it comes to pressure situations during the course of the tournament. Karunaratne, who led Sri Lanka to a historical 2-0 Test series win in South Africa, last played an ODI in 2015.
Also, their spin department which includes Jeffrey Vandersay and Milinda Siriwardana, doesn’t have the skills like that of Ajantha Mendis or Muttiah Muralitharan.
Karunaratne, whose appointment as captain for the showpiece event has been questioned by many, will have a chance to prove the critics wrong and show that he can lead the side and show his mettle event in such a big event.
With a career average of only 15.83 in 17 ODIs, Karunaratne, however, will be facing a herculean task of getting the maximum out of his inexperienced side.
Also, not being counted among the favourites will help the Sri Lankan cricketers to play without any pressure and express themselves in this World Cup.
Having the presence of experience players would have boosted the confidence of the young Sri Lankan players in a high pressure tournament like the World Cup. However that is not the case. Also, what can hurt Sri Lanka really badly in the tournament is the habit of the Sri Lankan team management to make sweeping changes. If any player fails to deliver in one of the matches, he will always be in fear of losing his place, which in turn will put extra pressure on him to perform.
In the batting department, Sri Lanka have lost wickets in a heap in many of the games in the last four years and that’s another thing that they need to be wary off.
Squad: Dimuth Karunaratne (c), Avishka Fernando, Lahiru Thirimanne, Kusal Perera (wk), Kusal Mendis, Dhananjaya de Silva, Jeevan Mendis, Milinda Siriwardana, Angelo Mathews, Thisara Perera, Isuru Udana, Lasith Malinga, Suranga Lakmal, Jeffrey Vandersay, Nuwan Pradeep.
(Aakash Kumar can be contacted at [email protected])