What are Sri Lanka’s chances in the 2019 World Cup?
It would be silly not to expect anything special from Sri Lanka in the World Cup, isn’t it?
This might have been a red herring or a disclaimer for teams in the ’99 World Cup, where the likes of Santah, Murali, Attapattu, De Silva, and Vaas were still around and going strong.
To take Sri Lanka, who had thumped the Aussies in 1996, lightly would’ve been as silly as throwing a shoe at a speaker during a UN session. But probably today, this might sound like an overestimation of their abilities. After all, in 2019, Herath won’t play, Sanga and Mahela are already a thing of the past, Chandimal’s been in and out and largely the team resembles an inexperienced albeit talented lot.
But a lot has changed over the years. The lack of domestic preparations, the depleting standards of pitches back at home, the lack of mind-boggling talent coming through the ranks and a clear lack of experience makes them a fidgety set-up.
But how did Sri Lanka get up to the top, let’s look first?
Sri Lanka first played a one day international at in the 1975 World cup against West Indies at Manchester. Seven years later, in 1982, they got their Test status and became eighth test cricket playing nation after that they never seen back. Sri Lanka achieved success in the early 90s. They entered the famous 1996 World Cup as an underdog and went on to win under Arjuna Ranatunga and Aravinda De Silva’s leadership. Their team reached the finals of the world cup 2007 and 2011 consecutively but ended up as runner-up in both occasions.
Even then, thanks to bowling talents like Malinga, the pace was good and made batsmen edgy and due to the presence of stalwarts like Sanga and Mahela, coupled with the strength of power-hitter Dilshan, teams took them lightly at their own peril.
But in the last decade or so, their well-oiled machinery that produced these legends seems to have dried up. Ever since the retirement of Sangakkara and Jayawardene, Sri Lankan limited over performances have been below par. Sri Lanka played 16 ODI series including Champions Trophy 2017 after the World Cup 2015. From these, Sri Lanka won series against Ireland, West Indies and two tri-series one in Bangladesh and another one in Zimbabwe. Sri Lanka won the series against England in 2014-15 the last series win against one of the top eight teams.
In last three years Angelo Mathews, Chandimal, Upul Tharanga, Chamara Kapugedera, Lasith Malinga and Thisara Perera have emerged as the main core and it seems that’s going to be the way forward for 2019. They’d further want Lahiru Kumara to step up big time for the prestigious competition.
But despite obvious batting talent- Dinesh Chandimal, Thisara Perera and Lahiru Thirimanne- who’ve been a regular feature since last 8-9 years how strong do Sri Lanka’s chances look for 2019 World Cup?
Isn’t their inconsistency a key element that can lead to an early catastrophe?
The trio of Upul Tharanga, Lasith Malinga, and captain Angelo Mathews- not the most productive campaigners for last 2 seasons seem the vital cog of experience for Sri Lanka’s chances in the 2019 World Cup.
But a question remains.
If this core gets good support from Kusal Perera, Kusal Mendis, Chandimal, Suranga Lakmal, Danuska Gunthilka, Akila Dhananjaya, and Lahiru Thirimanne – only then can they be a dangerous side in 2019 World Cup. Any 3-4 doing well as a team on any given day should serve a highly rusty-looking unit well.
We saw what a nearly bottom-placed Windies do to Sri Lanka in the Tests. We have also seen how brilliantly they bounced back against the Proteas in ODIs.
Suranga Lakmal should ideally serve the trump card for his side, having also had vital captaincy experience. Remember, Eden Gardens Test of 2017?
Now, some facts. The 2019 World Cup format is a round robin where all 10 teams will be playing against each other once in a single group and top 4 teams will progress to the semi-finals. So consistency will play the big role in this tournament. Every match will be important for the progress of the series.
Due to the loss against Bangladesh and Afghanistan in Asia Cup 2018 group matches 5- time Asia Cup winner Sri Lanka out of the tournament. In their first game against Bangladesh, they only scored 124 while chasing 262 whereas against Afghanistan they managed 158 while chasing.
We know the dangers spinners can impose. We’ve seen Mujeeb and Rashid for Afghanistan, Jadeja for India, Tahir for the Proteas, Moeen, and Rashid for England denting holes in the batsmen’s game.
They’ll never prove easy for a Sri Lanka whose batsmen are hardly at ease facing spin. Surprising it is then to note that this is a side that’s grown up and plays in the sub-continent.
To that end, their fans and administration will hope that they will get the solution for their weaknesses as early as possible. It’s these coming six months that hold the key. Their die-hard fans would want the team to hold themselves into a bunker and undergo a team meet, every alternate day and think or strategize how can they gell together with their consistent show of inconsistencies. After all, if they aren’t able to handle Asian teams, how would they be expected to hold onto their own against England, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and the likes on an alien turf?
Predicted XI for World Cup 2019 – Angelo Mathews(c), Lasith Maling, Suranga Lakmal, Dinesh Chandimal(wk), Kusal Perera(wk), Akila Dhananjaya, Nuwan Pradeep, Kusal Mendis, Upul Tharanga, Danuska Gunathilka, Dhananjay de Silva, Dasun Shanka, Thisara Perera, Dushnantha Chameera, Niroshan Dickwella/Lahiru Thirimanne.