Can Sri Lanka begin a new dawn in the 2023 ICC World Cup?
Sri Lanka reached the final of the ICC Cricket World Cup the last time India hosted the quadrennial extravaganza. MS Dhoni dashed Sri Lanka’s hopes after hitting a maximum off Nuwan Kulasekara’s delivery in the 49th over to help India clinch their second ODI World Cup title.
Things have changed a lot since then. A whole decade of players have come and gone. While India remains the favorites, the Lankan Lions can consider themselves fortunate if they can even muster a semi-final finish.
Coached by Chris Silverwood and led by Dasun Shanaka on the field, Sri Lanka will kick start their campaign with a match against South Africa on 7th October in Delhi and will finish their league stage campaign with an encounter against the Netherlands on 9th November.
Chamika Karunaratne is also accompanying the squad as a travelling reserve while Wanindu Hasranga and Dushmantha Chammera are on the fence nursing their injuries.
Dasun Shanaka ©, Kusal Perera (wk), Pathum Nissanka, Dimuth Karunaratne, Kusal Mendis, Sadeera Samarawickrama (wk), Charith Asalanka, Dhananjaya de Silva, Dushan Hemantha, Dunith Wellalage, Maheesh Theekshana, Matheesha Pathirana, Lahiru Kumara, Kasun Rajitha, Dilshan Madushanka
Ability to get the opposition all out: Sri Lanka romped through their opposition in the ICC World Cup Qualifiers by getting each of their opposition teams all out. Shanaka’s abilities as a captain to chop and change his bowlers don’t allow the opposition to stitch a big partnership.
Even in the recently concluded Asia Cup, they claimed all the 10 wickets of Bangladesh and India in the Super Four stage, and of Bangladesh and Afghanistan in the group stages before the stipulated 50 overs. With Shanaka at the helm, the Sri Lankan fans can be confident that their side won’t have to chase a very huge total.
Strong middle order: The trio of Kusal Mendis, Sadeera Samarawickrama, and Charith Asalanka are in their prime form and played a handy role in helping Sri Lanka reach the final of the Asia Cup. Mendis has struck five half-centuries this calendar year while Asalanka and Samarawickrama have three and four to their name respectively.
The trio are good at playing and reading the spin which is an important trait to have in your arsenal in the subcontinent pitches. Their resilient batting approach can go a big way in forging frustrating partnerships for the opposition.
Fitness concerns of key bowlers in the start: Sri Lanka’s 15-member squad announced on Tuesday didn’t have Hasaranga’s name as he is set to undergo surgery and Chameera is another notable figure missing due to injury concerns.
With Hasaranga out, the onus will lie on Wellalage and Theekshana to exploit the spin-friendly pitches of India. Dushan Hemantha and Dhananjaya de Silva are the other two bowlers in their squad who can make the ball turn. Not having your premier spinner in the subcontinent is not a favorable situation for any team.
Top order failing to set the tone: Sri Lanka’s openers struggled in the Asia Cup held recently. Only in their encounter against Afghanistan were they able to bat the first ten overs of the powerplay without losing a single wicket.
Nissanka and Karunaratne’s slight dip in form at the onset of the World Cup will be worrying Silverwood. The opening batters need to be careful of their wickets while making the most of the powerplay conditions as both getting out quickly exposes their middle order early in the game.
Capitalize on teams with poor tails: Theekshana and Shanaka have been lethal against the tail-enders by claiming their wickets quickly. While this won’t be an advantage against teams that can smash boundaries late in the innings like England and Australia, this ability can come in handy against the likes of South Africa and India who don’t have a strong No.8 and below batters.
Poor show against pacers can force a collapse: Sri Lanka’s struggle against pace bowling started at the beginning of the calendar year when Henry Shipley, Daryl Mitchell, and Blair Tickner bowled them out under 20 overs for a score of 76 in the first ODI in New Zealand. They lost five wickets inside the first ten overs and not a single one of the batters was able to go past the 20-run mark.
India kept their lines tight as Mohammed Siraj, Jasprit Bumrah, and Hardik Pandya claimed all ten wickets in Sri Lanka’s collapse in the final of the 2023 Asia Cup. It is expected that most teams will field two spinners and two pacers in India to make the most of the spin-friendly conditions.
However, South Africa, Australia, England, and New Zealand can spring a surprise by going with three regular pacers in their line-up and Sri Lanka could be in all sorts of trouble.
Predicted Playing XI
Pathum Nissanka, Dimuth Karunaratne, Kusal Mendis, Sadeera Samarawickrama (wk), Charith Asalanka, Dasun Shanaka ©, Dunith Wellalage, Kasun Rajitha, Matheesha Pathirana, Lahiru Kumara, Maheesh Theekshana