2007 – Super 8s, lost to Pakistan and Australia
2009 – Final, lost to Pakistan
2010 – Semi-final, lost to England
2012 – Final, lost to West Indies at home
2014 – Champions, finally (beat India)
Perhaps the most successful T20 international team out there, Sri Lanka has performed admirably in ICC tournaments since 2003. They’ve nailed the shorter format, entering the knockouts in 4 out of the 5 T20 World Cups so far – and reaching 3 finals on the way. They’ve lost to Pakistan and West Indies once each in the final, and defeated India in 2014 after restricting them to 130 despite a Kohli special. India was unbeaten till that final game, and entered as favorites. But Sri Lanka gained redemption on the bat of Sangakkara, and finally won their first World Cup after coming so close so many times. They will never forget Marlon Samuels’ God-mode in the 2012 final, when they were on the verge of destroying the West Indians at Colombo before magic happened.
Captain: Lasith Malinga (highest wicket taker in T20 cricket)
The defending T20 World Cup Champions are not the defending Asia Cup Champions anymore. A dispirited, disappointing performance at the T20 Asia Cup means that they crashed out before their last game (like Pakistan), and will have to watch India and Bangladesh (in their second Asia Cup final) battle it out for the title. This is just a week after they lost to India in a 3-match T20 series without the services of Captain Malinga and Angelo Mathews. With a near full-strength team in the Asia Cup, however, they have no excuses. Malinga played the first game against UAE as captain, returning after an injury lay-off, and bowled a match-winning spell, taking 4 wickets in a close encounter. Thereafter, he pulled out, while Lanka tamely went down to Bangladesh and India.
Inexperienced youngsters like Shanaka, Siriwardana, Dickwella, Vandersay and Chameera will need to step up to the plate and deliver some moments of magic. Angelo is unfortunate to be in a side that has lost its sheen, but it’s upto him to take Sri Lanka back to their glory days over time. For that, he needs the support of Chandimal and Perera – who haven’t quite become the names they were predicted to become. Also, their batsmen’s ability to counter spin has lessened, considering they don’t get to face wily old Murali in the nets anymore. In the same group as West Indies, South Africa and England, defending Champions Lanka have their work cut out.
This is a difficult subject. What are their strengths anymore? Even their stand-in Captain Mathews admits that they can’t be using the “team-in-transition” excuse anymore. Other than the hot-and-cold services of veterans Malinga, Herath and Dilshan (yep, he’s still around), they’ve not been the same after the retirement of Muralitharan, Sangakkara and Jayawardene. Their middle order is nothing – especially now that Dinesh Chandimal plays at the top. They have a few promising youngsters in Chameera and Kapugedera, but really, it’s almost always down to Angelo and all-rounder Thisara Perera (who’s only 26 even now) to finish strong. Their bowling depends too much on Malinga, with Kulasekera not consistent enough anymore, and Herath quite a liability on the field when he isn’t bowling.
X-Factor: Thisara Perera
Perhaps he should play higher up the order to give them a turbo boost more often. Who can forget his 2011 World Cup final finishing, when he slammed Zaheer Khan to support Jayawardene (even though they lost) to set up a formidable first innings total. He will have to find more zip with the ball too, and inspire his aging troops to be more than just the weakest in their group.
They won’t make it past their group – with West Indies and South Africa the favorites, and perhaps England the dark horses. Sri Lanka find themselves in the unfamiliar position of being no-hopers in a tournament they’ve engraved their names upon over time.