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T20 World Cup in Australia- Chances of Sri Lankan team

Sri Lanka is coming off a very successful Asia Cup tournament where the islanders sent shock waves by defeating much fancied India and Pakistan.

By Dharmakulasingham Aiyampilai

The stage is set for the eighth edition of the T20 World Cup in Australia. Host country Australia, the defending champion has put in place elaborate preparation and exceptional Australian hospitality awaits the participating teams and others. The proud moments of winning the world cup in 1996 at Lahore still resonate in the hearts and minds of Sri Lankans. A proud cricketing nation that produced outstanding players of the calibre of Sathasivam, HIK. Fernando, Abu Fuard, Michel Thisera, Anura Tennakone and many others is eagerly waiting to witness a thrilling performance from the young team. Like the once powerful West Indies, Sri Lanka too slipped from the peak. The stakeholders of the game came up with an excuse of transition of the teams after many legends retired. What are the chances for Sri Lanka this time is the question many Sri Lankan fans are saddled with.

Just completed Asia cup unexpectedly renewed the energy levels of the Sri Lankan team and the self-belief has been restored. More importantly, the fear of failure has been removed by the wise words of the coach and the involvement of master tactician Mahela Jayawardene as a consultant coach is considered as a huge positive. Highly respected Mahela’s successful involvement with Mumbai Indians and his achievements as a master tactician brought him many accolades and Mahela was inducted to the ICC cricket Hall of Fame in 2021. Mahela’s tactical acumen is definitely going to be a blessing to the young Sri Lankan team which can gradually and easily acclimatise to the Australian conditions with the input from Mahela since he has been familiar with Australian conditions. Team Management including coach Silverwood, Mahela Jayawardena and others are well aware of the fact that risk management plays a vital aspect in T20 games.

Playing in Australia is all about adjusting to the pace and bounce and the dimensions of the grounds are bigger than many grounds in Sri Lanka and UAE. Sri Lanka is coming off a very successful Asia Cup tournament where the islanders sent shock waves by defeating much fancied India and Pakistan. Sri Lanka do not have big hitters or T20 stars like Chris Gayle, Andre Russel, Hales, Buttler, Suryakumar Yadev, Bracewell, David Warner etc. It is generally believed that batters who can easily clear the boundary lines can win the games. However, the Sri Lankan teams without much fancied big hitters or a local league like IPL or Big Bash reached finals on three occasions and 2014 was another memorable year for Sri Lankan cricket as it defeated the powerful Indian team in the final in Bangladesh under the captaincy of Kumar Sangakara. World Cup winning team under captain cool Arjuna Ranatunga at the 1999 World Cup was disastrous. Seam and swing conditions in English, among many reasons, were attributed to the poor performance of the star-studded Sri Lankan team. In other words, Asia Cup glory in Dubai on 12 September 2022 by defeating the strong Pakistan team by 23 runs can’t guarantee the same competitive performance in Australian conditions. Being drawn in group B with Namibia, UAE and Netherlands in the qualifying round before progressing to the super 12 stage Sri Lanka have the opportunity of playing three matches in Australian conditions. Training sessions and official warm-up matches will help the Sri Lankan team to face the Namibian team in the tour opener on 15th October at Geelong. It is pertinent to ask the question whether Sri Lanka have ticked all the boxes in the checklist.

The batting department is more or less looks settled with openers and the top order. Pathum Nissanka’s technique against pace and bounce conditions and Kusal Mendis attacking instinct with his ability to play pace and spin at the top would provide space for the other batsmen to phase out their innings. Asalanka had a quiet series in the Asia Cup and he is backed by the management since he scored heavily in the 2021 World Cup. Danuska Gunathilake, Dhananjaya de Silva, Bhanuka Rajapakse are all in good form. Captain Shanaka, Hasaranga and Karunaratne could give the finishing touches.

The bowling department is, particularly pace bowling, a strong area for the current team with Chameera, Lahiru Kumara, Dilshan Madusanka, and Promod Madushan with all-rounder Chamika Karunaratne and skipper Shanaka for whom Australian pitches may be favourable. The spin bowling unit is as usual very strong in the hands of Hasaranga and mystery spinner Theekshana. The presence of leg spinner Vandersay provides options for team management depending on the rival team’s strengths and weaknesses. Recent fielding efforts by young Sri Lankans in UAE Asia Cup matches have been hugely appreciated by the commentators.

What is of immediate concern to Sri Lanka at this early stage is whether Sri Lanka will continue their winning streak and earn entry to the super 12 stage. The first hurdle is in the qualifying round. Though it appears it is a cakewalk for the Sri Lankan team, the great uncertainties of the game might have a field day and spoil the expectations. Sri Lank has a history of heavily defeating the associate countries in big stages and the current young team’s chances of earning entry to the super 12 are bright.

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