v/s New Zealand (14th Feb)
v/s Afghanistan (22nd Feb)
v/s Bangladesh (26th Feb)
v/s England (1st March)
v/s Australia (8th March)
v/s Scotland (11th March)
Captain: Angelo Mathews
The Sri Lankan Cricket team
is arguably the most successful Asian team at ICC tournaments since 2003. They have only one title to show (2014 T20 World Cup), but they have reached the final of almost every tournament. In large measure, this is due to their ‘golden’ generation of players—Sangakkara, Jayawardene, Dilshan—who have carried the hopes of their nation relentlessly, along with winning the Asia Cup in 2004, 2008 and 2014.
Along with New Zealand, Sri Lanka was the team that had a stellar 2014. They won a test series in England for the first time, won the ICC World T20
, and competed hard for most part except when they were whitewashed 5-0 by India in a bilateral series they weren’t prepared for. They are still a team with the perfect balance—with stalwarts and run machines Sangakkara and Jayawardene most likely playing their final ODI tournament—and have this last opportunity to win the event with a full-strength non-transition team. With their big 3 set to step down this year, they will probably suffer the way India did after the 2011 World Cup, but with lone crusader Angelo Mathews in charge, they have always found a way to resurface. He is perhaps Asia’s best all-rounder, and has been a man on a mission ever since he became national captain. They have Australia, New Zealand and England to contend with in their group, and could make the quarters in 3rd place ahead of England. It won’t be easy, because the Lankans aren’t known to perform well Down Under, as is evident from their struggles in New Zealand at the moment.
However, they have the most prolific batsman in world cricket, Kumara Sangakkara
, who at 37 is redefining hunger and batting records. He has become their highest test and ODI scorer, and is looking to end his second wind on a high. He bats anywhere, on any pitch, in any conditions, and drags his team through tournaments that aren’t played in Asia. Along with the unpredictable Dilshan, both of who had a very successful 2011 World Cup, he will define his team’s fortunes.
Their bowling lacks depth though, with only Malinga and Herath as the probing duo. Kulasekara and Lakmal blow hot and cold, while Perera has failed to live up to his reputation more often than once. With Thirimanne and Mathews in the middle order, they look strong. Also, theirs is a team that has their top two players—Sanga and Jaya—having played more matches together than most squads in totality. Jaya has more than 400 ODI matches to his credit, while Sanga is closing in on 400—much like the 2011 Indian team where Tendulkar, Yuvraj, Sehwag, Zaheer and Harbhajan had maximum experience in the numbers column.
Sri Lanka were minnows till they went one better than the revolutionary 1992 New Zealand side, using the same strategy in 1996. Jayasuriya, their left-arm off-spinner, was promoted to the top as a pinch-hitter with ‘little wonder’ wicketkeeper Kaluwitharana, and the rest was history. With Aravinda, Gurusinha and Ranatunga in the middle order, they became unbeatable throughout the Wills World Cup. It was to be a fairytale win, and an announcement onto the World Stage in style. They failed in 1999, reached the 2003 semis where they lost to Australia, reached the 2007 Finals where they again lost to Australia, and reached the 2011 Finals where they lost to India. Can they go one better finally?
X-Factor: Dinesh Chandimal
Surprise Pick: Rangana Herath
Surprise Exclusion: Ajantha Mendis