Just under a year remains until the 2020 T20 World Cup gets under way in Australia, with the 12 top teams set to battle it out for the grand prize Down Under.
The premier international sides have already shifted their focus to the shortest format of the game with the next 12 months set to afford them ample time to get their T20 combinations right.
As we take a look at the strengths and weaknesses of the major contenders for the 2020 tournament, it is now time to turn our attention towards Sri Lanka. Click here to read about the other leading contenders for the tournament.
No other team has made it to as many T20 World Cup finals as Sri Lanka (three) with the islanders managing to lift the trophy in the 2014 edition in Dhaka.
Their overall win-rate in the competition (64.28) is also the highest among all teams and as such, they will hope to make a giant killing in the 2020 edition as well. Their limited-overs outfit has been in freefall over the last two years following the retirements of their many of their stalwarts, but things are slowly beginning to look up again.
Their second-string unit recently whitewashed the No1 ranked Pakistan in their own backyard and that should give them plenty of confidence going forward. However, they were knocked quite literally for six in the recent T20I series against Australia and suffered a 0-3 whitewash at the hands of the hosts.
They will have to start their World Cup campaign in the first round after failing to automatically qualify for the Super 12.
Unpredictability was a tag most commonly associated with Pakistan but Sri Lanka are approaching the same territory with their recent displays. You never quite know which Sri Lanka side will show up on the day with the islanders oscillating between the brilliant and the horrendous on a consistent basis.
The side is filled with mercurial talents such as Kusal Perera, Niroshan Dickwella, Dasun Shanaka, Avishka Fernando and several others. All these players can be match-winners on their day while those waiting on the bench are not too shabby either, as Pakistan just learned the hard way.
Then there is the experience of skipper Lasith Malinga to boot, with the veteran bringing consistency to the side.
Their unpredictability, is of course a double-edged sword, with the side failing more often than it has succeeded in the last two years. The Sri Lanka Cricket (SLC) board remains a mess with the continuous political interference, and you never know when a new captain might be enforced on the side out of the blue. There is a reason why the likes of Mahela Jayawardene have distanced themselves from the country’s cricket administration.
Coach Chandika Hathurusingha’s fate also hangs in the balance despite having a contract until next year, with SLC suspending him indefinitely while they attempt to sever all ties.
With the administration in a constant state of flux, it is difficult to find stability and no wonder Sri Lanka’s performances have suffered of late despite the talent at their disposal.
What they need to do in the next 12 months
Sorting out the coaching mess would be a good start for Sri Lanka while a lack of political interference would be an added bonus. The latter is easier said than done though, so it might be better to concentrate on the things that are actually in their hands.
The recent series clean sweep over Pakistan has showed that there is plenty of talent such as Bhanuka Rajapaksa, Shehan Jayasuriya and leg-spinner Wanindu Hasaranga in their reserves.
There is every possibility to forge formidable T20 unit from the new performers and the already established first-team regulars. Finding the right balance and gaining consistency from that concoction should be their top-most priority in the coming months.
Their recent three-match T20 series in Australia against the hosts ended in a crushing loss, though the experience would have been critical in their bid to get the feel for conditions in next year’s World Cup.
Up next, the islanders are due to tour India for a three-match series which will tell them a lot about where they stand among the contenders.
Apart from that, the players will have to rely on participation in overseas franchise T20 leagues but only the likes of Malinga are actually in demand.
Key man – Lasith Malinga
Talisman and captain Malinga is undoubtedly Sri Lanka’s main man for the World Cup with the 36-year-old looking very much like his old best in recent months.
There was a time when it looked like he would fade away with a whimper with his multiple injuries, but those troubles seem to be behind him for now after some memorable recent displays.
His pin-point yorkers and cleverly disguised slower deliveries are still a tough nut to crack for any batsmen, especially in the T20 format. If he can remain fit till the next year, Sri Lanka’s chances will automatically brighten.
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