Sri Lanka may not enter the World Cup as favourites but if there is a team that does not enjoy the favourites tag going into a world tournament, then it is them for they have won two world tournaments without much pre-tournament fuss. This year, too, the limelight has been stolen from Sri Lanka and they would be banking on their senior triumvirate and their captain-marvellous to have any chance of getting closer to the coveted trophy.
Here is a list of five players who can turn the tide to help the island nation kiss the silverware.
#5 Dinesh Chandimal
A surprise addition to the list, Dinesh Chandimal might just be Sri Lanka’s surprise package during the World Cup provided, of course, he is given adequate chances. Chandimal’s poor run of form seems to have come to an end as he blazed his way to a 31-ball 35 and 50-ball 55 in his last two games against England. Despite those two performances, however, Chandimal was dropped for the first two ODIs in the ongoing series against New Zealand.
If a collapse of the kind seen in the first match against New Zealand is to recur in the World Cup, Sri Lanka might need Chandimal’s solid, compact technique to arrest such a collapse. A look back at Chandimal’s young career clearly illustrates the fact that his struggles have come primarily on slow wickets. This has resulted in him in scoring heavier on bouncy pitches as opposed to subcontinental tracks, a rarity among subcontinental batsmen.
He averages 30.17 with the bat overall in his career, but that average escalates exponentially to 49.80 and 52.75 in Australia and South Africa, respectively. His average in Australia is the highest for a Sri Lankan after playing 10 innings.
Sri Lanka will reap the results of Chandimal’s proficiency in Australia should they afford him a place in their batting order, which provisionally seems far-fetched. Given a spot in the team, who knows, the cherubic youngster might just end up winning the World Cup for his motherland.
#4 Sachithra Senanayake
The perfect example for the idiom “blessing in disguise” would be Senanayake’s case. The off spinner was given a provisional ban to bowl, following a failed test to prove his action legitimate in mid-2014. Prior to that the rangy bowler, relied on his variations to survive in the limited over cricket. He was a thrifty spinner of the ball most of whose balls were mostly straight.
But following the ban, Senanayake worked hard on his actions and since then his bowling action has become higher, helping him get a lot of revolutions on the ball. Now the off-break bowler is seen spinning, drifting and dipping the ball making him not only economical but also wicket-taking.
In the bouncy wickets of Australia and New Zealand, Sachithra’s height might aid him get more bounce and his exploits in the power plays would help Sri Lanka stem the late innings runs-surge that has become the characteristic feature of modern day cricket.
#3 Tillakaratne Dilshan
The last of the terrific-three of Sri Lanka, Dilshan’s bat has no ceased to score runs since he was promoted to open innings in 2009. With 19 ODI centuries under his belt, Dilshan’s explosive starts can completely murder oppositions.
While being an excellent opener, Dilshan’s all-round ability adds balance to the team. Aged 38, Dilshan has proved that age is just a number by being a fortress at backward point in the field. But the much pleasing facet of his cricket for Sri Lanka would be his bowling. From being just a part timer, the veteran Sri Lankan’s rapid rise as an all-rounder has helped Sri Lanka tweak their bowling in whichever the way they wanted.
Dilshan’s ability to spin, dip and drift the ball, in addition to his craftiness-which is often associated only with veteran specialist spin bowlers, has at times made his captain prefer him to bowl ahead of the specialist spinners. If Dilshan can bowl 5-10 overs in each game, then that would give Mathews a lot of permutations to work with.
Mahela Jayawardene, who scored a crafty century in the final of the 2011 World Cup, has predictably been Sri Lanka’s leading batsman in the last two World Cups. Sri Lanka have always considered the former captain as a big-match player, and he is yet to let his fandom down.
Although known for his inconsistency with the bat in ODIs amidst his highly impactful innings, the right-hander seems to have finally turned the tables after saying goodbye to Test cricket.
Since quitting the longer format, Mahela has played 16 ODIs, scoring 697 runs at an average of 46.46. The most impressive factor is that these runs have come at a strike rate of 93.55 which, for a No.4 batsman, is phenomenal.
With a scarcity of experience following him in the batting order, Mahela will have to make sure that he bats through the innings while also scoring at a brisk rate during the World Cup.
#1 Kumar Sangakkara
Kumar Sangakkara’s red hot form has now perpetuated for well over four years, and he looks good for another lucrative year after having scored a double ton under immense duress against New Zealand at the dawn of his career. The southpaw from Sri Lanka completed the year 2014 as the highest run-getter in both ODIs and Tests after having played a match-winning innings in the 2014 World T20 final to help his team gain glory.
On the verge of touching 40 years of age, Sanga remains one of the best batsmen in the world in both ODIs and Tests, if not the best. Slotted at No.3 in the batting order, Sanga’s solid batting laced with his ability to score risk-free runs will be paramount if Sri Lanka are to have any chance of winning the World Cup.
Sangakkara has already declared that this would be his last World Cup, and he would be eager to finish on a high. All his final games for Sri Lanka across different formats have been a good repository of fairy tales, and fans can look forward to one last such histrionic effort.