Sri Lanka will be looking to shake off the tag of major tournament nearly-men in Bangladesh, having been defeated in both the 2009 and 2012 ICC World Twenty20 finals and the previous two World Cup finals.
The Sri Lankans were beaten by the West Indies in 2012; a match where they started as strong favourites and dominated the early exchanges only for Marlon Samuels to blitz his side to a defendable yet mediocre total which Sri Lanka failed to chase down. 2009 was a similar story albeit in not quite such dramatic fashion, as Pakistan upset a favoured Sri Lanka to lift the trophy in England.
Providing they can finally overcome their issues in getting over the line then Sri Lanka, who have reached at least the semi-finals in the three previous tournaments, have an excellent chance of lifting the trophy.
Since the last World Cup their Twenty20 win percentage of 72.7 per cent is the world’s best by a significant margin, with second placed Pakistan a further 8.2 per cent behind.
They bring to Bangladesh a well-oiled squad loaded with experience - only Pakistan are able to boast more than the 426 caps Sri Lanka have in their ranks.
In conjunction with that, this is a squad full of both quality and depth. The batting merits of Mahela Jayawardene and Kumar Sangakkara need no explanation, while Kushal Perera has added a greater degree of firepower to the top order. Lower down, Angelo Matthew’s performs the finisher role exceptionally well and Thisara Perera offers lusty blows in the closing overs.
Bowling wise in the form of the explosive Lasith Malinga, Nuwan Kulasekera, Thisara Perera and Sachithra Senanayake, Sri Lanka can call on four of the top 10 leading wicket-takers since the last tournament, while whichever XI is selected will offer plenty of options. Further to that their battery of effective spin bowlers will be in their element on the slow surfaces of Bangladesh.
If you were being hyper-critical it could be argued their batting line-up is possibly not as destructive as certain others in the tournament, with their average of runs per over since the last tournament (7.8), substantially lower than nations such as Australia, England, New Zealand and India.
The slow conditions should negate this deficiency somewhat with wickets anticipated to not be as conductive to power hitting as certain other locations around the globe. Further to that Sri Lanka are also enhanced by entering the tournament off the back of lifting the Asia Cup.
Although it might be a different format that experience will have both bred confidence and importantly allowed Sri Lanka to acclimatise themselves with conditions in Bangladesh.
In truth, aside from the doubts regarding Sri Lanka’s mental strength at the business end of tournaments, it’s difficult to find holes in a side who look to have every base covered. However, one further noteworthy factor that could impact upon their chances is how the inexperienced Dinesh Chandimal leads the side, though he can call on plenty of experienced heads for assistance.
The draw has greatly benefitted Sri Lanka given they have avoided India, Pakistan, Australia and the West Indies; with those dangerous sides all in the opposite group. Fixtures against England, New Zealand and South Africa outside of their favoured conditions should hold no fear and it would be considered a major shock if they did not reach the last four.
The big question though, remains: are they able to dispel their closing stages demons? If they can, Sri Lanka will take some stopping.
14th February – Beat Bangladesh by three wickets (Chittagong)
12th February – Beat Bangladesh by (Chittagong)
13th December 2013 – Beat Pakistan by 24 runs (Dubai)
11th December – Lost to Pakistan by 3 wickets (Dubai)
6th August – Beat South Africa by 6 wickets (Hambantota)
4th August – Lost to South Africa by 22 runs (Hambantota)
2nd August – Lost to South Africa by 12 runs (Colombo)
Dinesh Chandimal (captain), Tillakaratne Dilshan, Rangana Herath, Mahela Jayawardene, Nuwan Kulasekara, Suranga Lakmal, Lasith Malinga, Angelo Mathews, Ajantha Mendis, Kushal Perera, Thisara Perera, Seekuge Prasanna, Kumar Sangakkara, Sachithra Senanayake, Lahiru Thirimanne
© Cricket World 2014