As five-time champions, Sri Lanka know exactly what is required to win the Asia Cup. Their last triumph came in 2014 when the likes of Kumar Sangakkara and Mahela Jayawardene were playing but with those two stars retired, Sri Lanka haven’t been the same force as they once were.
Angelo Mathews, captain for this week’s event, Suranga Lakmal and Lasith Malinga are the sole survivors from the event and currently make up part of a Sri Lankan team that are still going through a transition period.
Ahead of the Asia Cup in the UAE, we look more closely at the former champions and analyse their chances in the Emirates.
COACH– CHANDIKA HATHURUSINGHA
In charge of Sri Lanka for less than a year, things hasn’t gone exactly to plan for the former Bangladesh coach. Despite winning the tri-series in Bangladesh, the 3-2 ODI series defeat to South Africa shows how big of a task lies ahead of him.
CAPTAIN – ANGELO MATHEWS
It’s vital that the 31-year-old uses all his experience and lead from the front. The all-rounder has been consistent over the years and fared strongly with the bat in the recent South Africa series while more often than not, has taken his team home when under pressure. More of the same will be needed in the UAE.
STAR MAN – AKILA DANANJAYA
Will miss the first two games with his wife expected to give birth but when he arrives, the off-spinner has plenty up his sleeve to make an instant impact with the ball – just like how he did against South Africa.
ONE TO WATCH: LASITH MALINGA
Recalled for first time since September 2017, all eyes will be on how the 35-year-old pacer fares. There’s no doubting his qualities but will have a point to prove that he still has what it takes to play at the top level.
STRENGTHS – BOWLING TALENT
The Islanders do not have any star batsmen in their ranks but have individuals who can do the damage with the ball. That includes Malinga whose record itself put him into that bracket.
WEAKNESSES – SCORING THE RUNS
If run-scoring wasn’t hard enough already, opener Dhanushka Gunathilaka became the latest casualty to be ruled out, joining Dinesh Chandimal on the injured list. A lot of responsibility will fall on the rest of the batsmen to deliver when it matters.
PREDICTION: SUPER FOUR STAGE
Sri Lanka are still going through a transition period but although they are not as prolific as they once were, have the quality to advance to the Super Four. Anything more will be a bonus.
FULL SQUAD: Angelo Mathews (Captain), Kusal Perera, Kusal Mendis, Upul Tharanga, Niroshan Dickwella, Shehan Jayasuriya, Thisara Perera, Dasun Shanaka, Dhanajaya de Silva, Akila Dananjaya, Dilruwan Perera, Amila Aponso, Kasun Rajitha, Suranga Lakmal, Dushmantha Chameera and Lasith Malinga
Saturday, September 15: Sri Lanka v Bangladesh, 15:30, Dubai
Monday, September 17: Sri Lanka v Afghanistan, 15:30, Abu Dhabi
Sri Lanka have been dealt a blow with opening batman Danushka Gunathilaka ruled out of the Asia Cup due to a back injury.
The 27-year-old suffered the lower-back injury during practice at the ICC Academy in Dubai and will now fly home to receive treatment. The Sri Lankan Cricket Board have now called up left-handed batsman Shehan Jayasuriya into the squad.
On Monday, Sri Lanka’s Test captain Dinesh Chandimal withdrew from the squad after injuring his finger during a domestic T20 match.
Sri Lanka squad: Angelo Mathews (Captain), Kusal Perera, Kusal Mendis, Upul Tharanga, Niroshan Dickwella, Shehan Jayasuriya, Thisara Perera, Dasun Shanaka, Dhanajaya de Silva, Akila Dananjaya, Dilruwan Perera, Amila Aponso, Kasun Rajitha, Suranga Lakmal, Dushmantha Chameera and Lasith Malinga.
The 14th edition of the Asia Cup is fast approaching with the tournament slated to be held in the UAE for the third time in its history.
Six of the best teams from the continent will battle it out for the crown of Asia’s best across two venues.
Bangladesh, who are yet to lay their hands on the title, have been placed in a tough Group B alongside Sri Lanka and Afghanistan. Here, we take a closer look at the Tigers as they prepare to leave their mark in the UAE.
COACH – STEVE RHODES
Former England wicketkeeper Steve Rhodes took charge as the head coach of the team in June this year following an extensive search by the Bangladesh Cricket Board (BCB). The 54-year-old has vast coaching experience in country cricket where he served as the director of cricket for Worcestershire from 2006 to 2017.
His Bangladesh tenure got off to a dismal start with a Test series defeat in their tour of the Caribbean but the team then bounced back to clinch the subsequent ODI and T20I series.
CAPTAIN – MASHRAFE MORTAZA
The veteran pacer has been leading the ODI team for some time now and he brings with him a bagful of experience. Having burst onto the international stage as a genuine pacer in 2001, the 34-year-old has transformed himself constantly in the wake of recurring injuries, especially to his knee.
Now, he is a wily medium-pace bowler who can pick up wickets up front while keeping things tight at the death. With 32 wins in 58 ODI matches, Mortaza is the most successful limited-overs skipper in Bangladesh’s history and he will be hoping to lead the side to their maiden Asian crown as he approaches the twilight of his career.
STAR MAN – SHAKIB AL HASAN
Quite a lot has changed for Bangladesh cricket over the last few years but that Shakib Al Hasan remains their star man has not. Currently the No1 ranked all-rounder in ODI cricket, Shakib has been recently reinstated as the vice captain of the squad.
With over 5,000 ODI runs and 237 wickets, there aren’t many better than the Bangladesh all-rounder and if he can find some form, the Tigers are bound to go far in the tournament. Arguably the greatest player produced by his country, Shakib has been carrying the hopes of the Bangladesh team for over a decade now and he will be required to do it once again in the UAE. The all-rounder has deferred a possible finger surgery to make himself available for the tournament.
ONE TO WATCH – MEHIDY HASAN
The 20-year-old batting all-rounder could be a game-changer in the tournament for Bangladesh if he can find his bowling radar. A handy lower-order batsman who can land the big blows, Hasan can also turn the screws with ball in hand. He barely gives anything away with his tight off-spin which is shown by his career economy-rate of 4.77.
He was the undisputed star of Bangladesh U19’s march to the semi-final of the World Cup in 2016 and has already been earmarked as a potential superstar for the country.
STRENGTHS – MIDDLE ORDER
With Shakib, Mushfiqur Rahim and Mahmadullah in tow, Bangladesh’s middle-order is one of the strongest in the tournament. If the likes of Tamim Iqbal and Liton Das can lay a solid platform at the top of the innings, then these three batsmen are more than capable of driving home the advantage in the death overs.
WEAKNESSES – TOP ORDER
With Tamim Iqbal nursing a finger injury and Nazmul Hussain yet to be capped at the ODI level, Bangladesh could have troubles at the top of the innings. They have added batsman Mominul Haque as a backup to the two openers who are both dealing with injuries. A lot of the responsibility in the top-order will fall on the shoulders of Liton Das who has played only 12 ODIs to date.
Mashrafe Bin Mortaza (c), Shakib Al Hasan, Tamim Iqbal, Mohammad Mithun, Liton Kumar Das, Mushfiqur Rahim (wk), Ariful Haque, Mahmudullah, Mosaddek Hossain Saikat, Nazmul Hossain Shanto, Mehidy Hasan Miraz, Nazmul Islam Apu, Rubel Hossain, Mustafizur Rahman, Abu Haider Rony, Mominul Haque.
GROUP STAGE MATCH 1
September 15: Bangladesh v Sri Lanka
Venue: Dubai International Cricket Stadium, Dubai.
Time: 14:00 GST
GROUP STAGE MATCH 2
September 20: Bangladesh v Afghanistan
Venue: Sheikh Zayed Stadium, Abu Dhabi
Time: 14:00 GST