ICC Cricket World Cup - Sri Lanka SWOT Analysis - Strength, Weakness, Opportunity, Threat
Crowned the world champions in 1996, Sri Lanka, other than West Indies, is one team which is in a dire state after having achieved glory in the yesteryears.
Almost every team is effected by the departure of stars but they recover after a dull phase more often than not and find a new star who leads from the front for a decade or so and captures the imagination of that generation.
However, that has not been the case with Sri Lanka. Since the departure of two of the world's greatest batsmen Kumar Sangakkara and Mahela Jayawardene, Sri Lanka have not been able to find even a semblance of consistency in their batting line up.
After crashing out of the 2015 edition, following a big loss to South Africa in the quarterfinals, Sri Lanka have seen a further decline in their cricketing fortunes. The team hit a new low in 2017 after a visiting Zimbabwe team trumped them 3-2 in a five-match ODI series. Surprisingly, the nation has not won a bi-lateral rubber in the last two years.
Just when it seemed that Lasith Malinga's career was over, he came from wilderness in the home series against England and proved once again that class is permanent. He remains Sri Lanka's best bet in the bowling department and will have to deliver if Sri Lanka intend to be in the mix for the semis. While captaining the side on the tour of New Zealand, the 35-year-old paceman ended as the team's top wicket-taker with seven wickets from three matches.
Even in the twilight of his career, Malinga is one of the best in the business when it comes to death bowling and recently helped Mumbai Indians win the IPL final against Chennai Super Kings by picking up a wicket on the last ball. With 318 wickets in 213 matches since making his ODI debut in 2004, Malinga is one of the greatest limited-overs bowlers of the modern era and would want to end on a high.
Just like Malinga, Angelo Mathews has also served the team over the years but it is coming on the back of a tiff with the Sri Lankan cricket board. His hamstring injury did not allow him to be a part of the team in recent matches but Mathews has not showed any signs of slowing down, returning with 227 runs in four innings, including a century and a fifty in Sri Lanka's domestic Super Provincial One Day tournament.
It has become a feature of the Sri Lankan side that they lose wickets in heaps. Once the batting unit comes under pressure, wickets keep falling like a pack of cards. To add to that, Sri Lanka have shown their trust in some of the out of form batsmen and that can cost the team in the tournament.
It is likely that skipper Dimuth Karunaratne will open the batting either with Avishka Fernando or Lahiru Thirimanne. While Thirimanne last played an ODI in December 2017 and is short of a feel of the international game for around two years, 21-year old opener Avishka has had modest returns since his debut during the home series against Australia in 2018. Both Kusal Mendis and Dhananjaya de Silva have also been picked in the squad despite repeated failures.
Sri Lanka have made too many changes both to their squad and their leadership over the past couple of years, following a string of dismal performances. The changes are understandable, but the team management ought to show some more trust in the players.
The captaincy has changed hands from Angelo Mathews to Dinesh Chandimal to Lasith Malinga and finally has come to rest with Dimuth Karunaratne for the showpiece event. Interestingly, former captain Chandimal is not even a part of the World Cup squad.
Nevertheless, higher the stakes, higher the chances of turning into a hero and Karunaratne must keep this in mind going into the World Cup. If he can do something out of the ordinary to inspire his troops, he will instantly become an icon in the cricket-crazy nation.
Amid all the trouble, if there has been one individual who has been consistently shining brightly, it is bowling all-rounder Isuru Udana. Udana has not only picked up wickets but has played some breathtaking knocks lower down the order at mind-boggling strike rates and is expected to continue his heroics in the World Cup.
One is afraid to say but on the basis of current form and the capability of the squad, Sri Lanka are not expected to go any further than the group stage. The selection panel might have taken a few left-field decisions such as the inclusion of Lahiru Thirimanne, Jeevan Mendis, Avishka Fernando, Jeffrey Vandersay and Milinda Siriwardana in the 15-man preliminary squad in order to break the chain of losses, but it is not likely to make a whole lot of difference.
Clashing with the best international teams and facing tremendous pressure might be too much for the out-of-form, young and inexperienced side to take and one won't be surprised if the team crumbles under that mounting pressure.
Squad: Dimuth Karunaratne (c), Avishka Fernando, Lahiru Thirimanne, Kusal Perera (wk), Kusal Mendis, Dhananjaya de Silva, Jeevan Mendis, Milinda Siriwardana, Angelo Mathews, Thisara Perera, Isuru Udana, Lasith Malinga, Suranga Lakmal, Jeffrey Vandersay, Nuwan Pradeep
Standbys: Oshada Fernando, Kasun Rajitha, Wanindu Hasaranga, Angelo Perera
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