Declining Sri Lanka face tough task at the T20 World Cup

The T20 format was introduced at the international stage in 2005. During its initial years, the most consistent side in the format were undoubtedly Sri Lanka. The Islanders won the 2014 T20 World Cup and were runners-up twice. Apart from that, they also reached the semifinal twice in the first six editions of the T20 World Cup. Till 2014, Sri Lanka also had a highly impressive win-loss ratio of 1.83, which was the best among all full members.

However, the Sri Lankan team has been struggling over the last 6-7 years. In the shortest format, the subcontinent side has lost 51 matches out of 73 they have featured in since 2015. While they have won just 20 matches and have a W/L ratio of 0.392, which is the worst among the full member nations. Besides, they have dropped down to no.10 in ICC T20I rankings. The 2014 champions have also been forced to play Round 1 of the T20 World Cup, which mostly comprises of the associates.

Sri Lanka have failed to produce high-quality players after the retirement of their stars from the past. Several young players showed promise but failed to show any sort of consistency. The management has continuously been tinkering with the lineup and that’s the reason Sri Lanka has failed to get a settled combination. As many as seven different captains have led the Subcontinent side since 2015. The last few years for Sri Lanka cricket have been full of uncertainty.

There have also been disputes between players and the management. Recently, Sri Lankan players refused to sign new contracts that saw their salaries being deducted. Moreover, there have also been accusations of the government’s interference in the sport. This particular reason is also seen as one of the reasons for the decline.

The odds are stacked against Sri Lanka and they will have to play out of their skin if they have to leave a mark in the tournament.

The Squad:

Dasun Shanaka (captain), Kusal Perera, Dinesh Chandimal, Dhananjaya De Silva, Pathum Nissanka, Charith Asalanka, Avishka Fernando, Bhanuka Rajapaksa, Chamika Karunaratne, Wanindu Hasaranga, Dushmantha Chameera, Lahiru Kumara, Maheesh Theekshana, Akila Dananjaya, Binura Fernando.

Recent Form:

Sri Lanka has played 12 T20Is this year, won 3 and lost 9. 2 out of the three victories came against the COVID-hit Indian side in a three-match series. The Islanders faced humiliating 0-3 defeats against England in England and recently against Proteas at home. Other than that, they also lost 1-2 against the West Indies.

Chances at the 2021 T20 World Cup:

Sri Lanka is grouped alongside Ireland, Namibia and the Netherlands in Group A. Group A is certainly the tougher of the two groups at round one considering the recent form of the teams and the quality of players they have assembled. So it’s not going to be a walk in the park for the Islanders.

Batting is an area of major concern for Sri Lanka. The team is full of talented stroke players who have produced an impactful performance here and there but have failed to do it consistently. Kusal Perera (ranked 37th) is the only batsman in the squad ranked in the top 100 of T20I batting rankings. The southpaw has scored 1416 runs in 51 innings at an average of 27.76 and a strike rate of 132.11. These numbers are not extraordinary by any means but still much better than his teammates who average in the low 20s or even in teens with lower strike rates.

The wickets in UAE at the IPL 2021 have been slow & low and if they remain the same at the T20 World Cup then the likes of Dinesh Chandimal and vice-captain Dhananjaya De Silva, both of whom are likely to bat in the top-order, will hold the key. Both are considered good players of spin and will have to be consistent in setting the platform for the middle-order to launch themselves in the final few overs. Skipper Dasun Shanaka, southpaw Bhanuka Rajapaksa and allrounders Wanindu Hasaranga and Chamika Karunaratne will form the lower middle-order of the side. They will have to make adjustments and execute their plans according to the needs of their side.

The bowling looks slightly better with wrist spinner Wanindu Hasaranga and speedster Dushmantha Chameera being in red hot form. Hasaranga is currently ranked no.2 in ICC T20I rankings. The 24-year-old has picked up 20 wickets at @13.15 and at an economy rate of 5.59 in 12 T20Is he has played in this year. While Chameera has also shown great consistency this year. The speedster has picked up 15 wickets @17.86 and at an economy rate of 6.51 in the 12 T20Is.

Wanindu Hasaranga, who is known for his googly, will be the most important player for the Sri Lankan side on UAE pitches which will assist spin. Either of the two mystery spinners in the squad, Akila Dhananjaya and newcomer Maheesh Theekshana, will partner the talented leggie. Dhananjaya De Silva also provides a good option as a part-timer.

The pacers with good variations such as the slower-balls have done well on UAE pitches in the IPL 2021 hence the medium Pacers like Chamika Karunaratne and Dasun Shanaka can be useful on these wickets.

Author’s take: While it’s no secret that Sri Lanka is on the decline. Hence there is very little chance of them having a successful campaign. They are placed in a tricky group in round 1 so it’s not going to be a walk in the park. However, it’s most likely that they will make it to the Super 12 stage. But the probability of their further progress from there is very low.

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