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Monday, Oct 14, 2019

ICC World Cup 2019: Sri Lanka SWOT analysis - Old warhorse Malinga keeps Sri Lanka dreaming

The island nation, who were world champions in 1996 and reached consecutive finals in 2007 and 2011, are ranked ninth among the 10 teams at this year’s tournament and have not won a bilateral series against a top-10 nation since 2015.

cricket Updated: May 29, 2019 17:37 IST
HT Correspondent
HT Correspondent
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
CAPE TOWN, SOUTH AFRICA - MARCH 16: Lasith Malinga of Sri Lanka during the 5th Momentum ODI match between South Africa and Sri Lanka at PPC Newlands on March 16, 2019 in Cape Town, South Africa.
CAPE TOWN, SOUTH AFRICA - MARCH 16: Lasith Malinga of Sri Lanka during the 5th Momentum ODI match between South Africa and Sri Lanka at PPC Newlands on March 16, 2019 in Cape Town, South Africa.(Getty Images)
         

The last four years have not been kind to Sri Lankan cricket and the island’s once-powerful side arrive at the ICC World Cup 2019 struggling for form under a newly appointed captain who has played a single one-day international since 2015.

Sri Lanka have won 24 of 86 ODIs since stalwarts Mahela Jayawardene and Kumar Sangakkara retired after the 2015 World Cup, with the captaincy changing hands six times since.

The island nation, who were world champions in 1996 and reached consecutive finals in 2007 and 2011, are ranked ninth among the 10 teams at this year’s tournament and have not won a bilateral series against a top-10 nation since 2015.

Sri Lanka in World Cups
  • Best Performance: Winners: 1996
  • Highest team score: 398/5 vs Kenya, Kandy, 1996
  • Leading run-scorer: Kumar Sangakkara (1532)
  • Leading wicket-taker: Muttiah Muralitharan (68)
  • Highest score: Tillakaratne Dilshan (161*) vs Bangladesh, Melbourne, 2015
  • Best bowling figures: Chaminda Vaas (6/25) vs Bangladesh, Pietermaritzburg, 2003
  • Best partnership: 282 for the 1st wicket by Tillakaratne Dilshan/Upul Tharanga vs Zimbabwe, Pallekele, 2011

The side’s form in 2019 has been dire, losing eight games in series whitewashes by New Zealand and South Africa, against a backdrop of political instability at home and the deaths of more than 250 people in last month’s Easter Sunday bombings.

The Lankans have the oldest squad at the tournament with an average age of 29.9 years, but only four of their players have more than 100 ODI caps.

Former captains Upul Tharanga and Dinesh Chandimal, who have played 381 ODIs between them, were dropped due to poor form, and mystery spinner Akila Dananjaya, wicketkeeper Niroshan Dickwella and opener Danushka Gunathilaka also did not make the cut.

The choice of test captain Dimuth Karunaratne as Sri Lanka’s ODI skipper has raised eyebrows because the opener has played only one 50-overs match in the last four years -- against Scotland earlier this week.

Karunaratne’s ability to lay the foundations for an innings is well known in tests but the 31-year-old has two half-centuries to his name in the 18 ODIs he has played since his debut in 2011.

STRENGTHS

Lasith Malinga: Malinga has taken 43 wickets in the World Cup so far, which is the 6th highest in the tournament. He had a poor 2017, and then was dropped from the Sri Lanka squad. But since his comeback midway in 2018, he has picked up 21 wickets in 14 matches.

Thisara Perera: Thisara has scored 695 runs and has taken 31 wickets since 2018 which is the most by a Sri Lankan player. In the last two years he has a batting average of 34.58 and 35.00 which his personal best.

WEAKNESSES

Poor form: They have not won a single ODI in 2019. Post 2015 World Cup, they have lost the most matches (55) and have a win percentage of 27.38 which is the least among the current 10 World Cup teams.

Batting: In 2019, Sri Lanka’s batting average is 22.09 which is the least among the 10 teams. They also have scored the 3rd least number of runs in 2019 and has the least number of 50+ scores (8) in 2019 among the 10 teams.

Not finding the right fit: Since the last World Cup Sri Lanka have tried 55 players, moreover since 2018 they have tried 34 players which is the most by any team.

OPPORTUNITIES

Dimuth Karunaratne: Leading the Sri Lanka side in the 2019 World Cup will be a huge opportunity for Dimuth Karunaratne. He as a captain is only 2 ODIs old. He captained SL to win the test series in SA (2019) 2-0, thus becoming the first Asian to win a series in SA.

Underdogs: Most of the players in the current Sri Lankan squad have not played a single ODI in 2019. Also, couple of players have played less than 5 ODIs. But given the mix of experience and youth Sri Lankan can surprise opponents in the World Cup.

THREATS

Injury concern: Players like Angelo Mathews, Suranga Lakmal and Lasith Malinga come with a history of injuries. Also, their average age is 30 which adds to the injury concern given the fact that they are to play at least 9 matches this World Cup.

Poor away record: Sri Lanka since the 2015 World Cup, have not had a good record away from home. They enjoy playing in the sub- continent, but away from home, they are yet to find the winning formula.

Sri Lanka begin their World Cup campaign against New Zealand on June 1 in Cardiff.

Sri Lanka World Cup Squad: Dimuth Karunaratne©, Avishka Fernando, Lahiru Thirimanne, Kusal Janith Perera, Kusa Mendis, Angelo Mathews, Dhananjaya De Silva, Jeffrey Vandersay, Thisara Perera, Lasith Malinga, Isuru Udana, Suranga Lakmal, Nuwan Pradeep, Jeevan Mendi, Milinda Siriwardana

(With agency inputs)

First Published: May 29, 2019 17:37 IST

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