Sri Lanka are indisputably the most outlandish side in cricket World Cups, for no other side has ever managed to win a World Cup after having been an associate nation previously. Sri Lanka were a cricketing minnow for 4 World Cups. They were no dark horses even when they played the 1996 World Cup, a tournament that they eventually won. But ever since the 1996 fairytale, the emerald isle have been the second most consistent team at the World Cup.
Sri Lanka made their ODI debut in 1975, playing the invincible West Indians in their first match. As expected, their first outing was underwhelming. The Lankan contingent managed only 86 runs in their first international match. The poignant tale continued for the remainder of the tournament as Lanka returned home, winless.
In 1983, Sri Lanka managed to beat New Zealand and the 1987 World Cup – the first World Cup to be played outside England – saw Sri Lanka comprehensively beaten. In 1992, however, Sri Lanka eked out two wins, the highest the island had produced till then.
Having won just 4 matches in their first 5 World Cups, Sri Lanka began their 1996 campaign with people thinking that they’d only make up the numbers.
A bomb blast in the capital city had deterred the Australian and the West Indies teams to pull out from Sri Lanka, helping the co-hosts enter the knock-outs for the first time, even before a single ball was bowled.
Luck did favour them, but it would be preposterous to say that it helped them win the title. In the 2003 World Cup, Kenya and Zimbabwe managed to enter the Super Six, thanks to some forfeits from visiting teams but that didn’t help them win the tournament.
Arjuna Ranatunga, cricket’s version of Kautiliya, melded experience with youthfulness, aggression with stability, and mavericks with conformism. Sri Lanka choked oppositions with spin and punctured them with wonton savages.
The island nation propounded a new brand of cricket, that would re-write cricket’s destiny. The 1996 World Cup was one of its kind. The islanders walked in furtively, a href=”http://www.sportskeeda.com/cricket/sri-lankas-1996-world-cup-triumph-a-day-when-david-walloped-goliath” target=”_blank”>conquered the world and swaggered back home with the trophy as the whole world gaped at the impossible becoming a possibility.
The 1999 World Cup was a melodramatic story. In 2003, Sri Lanka’s journey ended in the semi-finals. Sri Lanka ended up being bridesmaids in 2007 and 2011.
History at the World Cup
Sri Lanka have played a total number of 66 matches in World Cups, out of which they have won 31 and lost 32. It is apposite to split Sri Lanka’s renditions into two; before 1996 and after 1996.
Since 1996, Sri Lanka have been the most consistent team after Australia, winning 27 of their 41 games accounting for a win-loss ratio of 2.250.
Record since 1996
The 1996 Wills spoils is the only World Cup trophy residing in Sri Lanka’s trophy cabinet.
Clouds of controversy loomed over the first World Cup to be played in Sri Lanka as the Tamil insurgents bombed the Central Bank of Sri Lanka in Colombo. Although, ICC declared Sri Lanka safe, West Indies and Australia refused to play in the country. While West Indies’s fear was genuine, Australia had a political ploy surrounding that decision. After negotiations, ICC decided to award both games to Sri Lanka on forfeit. Thus, the second youngest Test nation then, proceeded to its first knockout stage, even before the World Cup had began.
Arjuna Ranatunga devised a canny, astute scheme to catalyse Sri Lanka’s triumph. The men in blue and yellow had the most experienced lineup on paper as Arjuna successfully executed the plan of opening with two pinch-hitters.
Sanath Jayasuriya and Romesh Kaluwitharana were to bash balls without scruple. Asanka Gurusinha at number 3 would anchor the innings. Aravinda de Silva was the main batsman and it was the responsibility of the middle-order to bat around him. Ranatunga was at five and would make sure the rate of scoring would not slump with his deft shots and risk-free run scoring.
If wickets tumbled and the going got tough, then Roshan Mahanama and Hashan Tillakaratne would get going from numbers 6 and 7. Chaminda Vaas at number eight would give the upswing required at the end.
At the other end of the pitch, with the ball in hand, Sri Lanka employed Vaas and Pramodaya Wickramasinghe to utilise the new ball. Kumar Dharmasena and Muttiah Muralitharan would bowl their off breaks. In addition, Arjuna cleverly used de Silva, Jayasuriya and himself in choking down oppositions with deceptive slow bowling.
Sri Lanka advanced to the quarterfinals unbeaten, with the most important victory coming against India at Delhi. It was in this game that Sanath Jayasuriya paraded his pinch-hitting style to the world, hitting Manoj Prabhakar out of cricket and coaxing him into early retirement. The victory against India made the team believe that they could go all the way.
The left-handed marauder once again smashed Sri Lanka into the semifinals, helping the team thrash England in the first quarterfinals.
In the semi-finals, the island nation won the match through default, when the fanatic fans from Kolkata set the stadium on fire. In the final, the fairy tale reached the crux with the pearl from the Indian ocean humbling the mighty Australians.
Sri Lanka have never lost to Zimbabwe and Bangladesh in the World Cup. The only time they lost to an associate nation was when they lost to Kenya in 2003. Apart from the lesser strong teams, Sri Lanka’s favourite World Cup foe happens to be New Zealand. They have played 9 games against the Kiwis, winning 6 and losing 3. The Lankans have also beaten them in the semi-finals of two consecutive World Cups (2007 and 2011).
India are Sri Lanka’s second favourite adversary. Sri Lanka have lost thrice to India while winning four times with one game producing no-result.
Pakistan remain Sri Lanka’s migraine in World Cups. They have played 7 games against Pakistan, losing all seven.
v New Zealand
v South Africa
v West Indies
Sri Lanka have had eight captains leading them at World Cups, with Arjuna Ranatunga, Anura Tennekoon and Duleep Mendis being the only skippers leading the team more than once at cricket’s biggest carnival.
Considering the number of matches won, Ranatunga and Jayawardene have been the best captains, both winning 8 matches each. But Kumar Sangakkara has the best win/loss ratio of the three, losing only two matches.
|PA de Silva||1||1992-1992||8||2||5||0||1||0.400|
Sri Lanka made it a habit to evict themselves out of the tournament in the first leg itself prior to their glory in 1996. Hence, I consider only the tournaments that succeeded the 1996 World Cup.
Sri Lanka’s worst performance came in the 1999 World Cup that immediately followed the victorious campaign in 1996. But since 1999, the men in blue and yellow have never failed to reach the semi-finals in any of the World Cups.
Any promise Sri Lanka garnered from fans world over pummelled down after the underwhelming performance in 1999. Sri Lanka were knocked out in the first round, with victories coming against only Zimbabwe and Kenya.
The use of Duke balls duped the Lankan players and made life difficult for them with prodigious swing.