Angelo Matthews is arguably Sri Lanka’s only world class batsman at this World Cup
Angelo Matthews is arguably Sri Lanka’s only world class batsman at this World Cup

Factions, frictions and a failure waiting to happen

Sri Lankan cricket appears so dysfunctional at present that the 1996 champions may have sabotaged their chances of mounting any sort of World Cup challenge before a ball has even been bowled.

The record of the 1996 World Cup champs over the past two years is 10 wins, and 35 losses.

The bookies rate them a $101 chance this time around, ahead of only Afghanistan and Bangladesh, and they are such a rabble they should really be $1001.

When Sri Lanka named its 15-man squad, the man who captained the team to its most recent ODI victory, Dinesh Chandimal, wasn't even included.

 

Lasith Malinga was the hero in Mumbai Indians' IPL final victory — but he is unlikely to be getting his hands on silverware with his national team any time soon.
Lasith Malinga was the hero in Mumbai Indians' IPL final victory — but he is unlikely to be getting his hands on silverware with his national team any time soon.

 

Chandimal had already been replaced as captain by Lasith Malinga, but he won't lead Sri Lanka in England after failing to register a win as skipper in nine matches in charge.

Malinga was also at the centre of a Facebook squabble, not between players, but wives, and was called out by Thisara Perera. The pair will be teammates in England, but it hardly screams a unified changeroom.

The man who will replace Malinga as captain, opening batsman Dimuth Karunaratne, hasn't even played an ODI since the 2015 World Cup. But he has been a stand-out as Test captain, leading Sri Lanka to a stunning, and historic, series win against South Africa earlier this year.

 

Lahiru Thirimanne is one of four squad members absent from the ODI side since 2017.
Lahiru Thirimanne is one of four squad members absent from the ODI side since 2017.

 

It's not that Sri Lankan selectors just picked names from a hat, but it does seem that way, or at least seems like the four-year planning most countries undertook for the World Cup, was more like four hours.

Four players who haven't even played an ODI game since 2017 - batsman Lahiru Thirimanne, spin-bowling all rounders Milinda Siriwardana and Jeevan Mendis, and legspinner Jeffrey Vandersay - all got a ticket to England.

There are so many moving parts in Sri Lankan cricket that they have undermined any chance of creating the stability needed to mount any sort of World Cup campaign.

Even on player power, the Sri Lankans look thin.

They don't have a single batsmen ranked in the top 30 of the International Cricket Council's ODI player rankings and their highest rated bowler, Akila Dananjaya, who is 13th, didn't make the squad, having lost form after being reported for a suspect action last year.

Angelo Matthews looms as their best weapon, but is coming off a significant hamstring injury which forced him to miss Sri Lanka's two-Test tour of Australia in January.

 

Angelo Matthews is arguably Sri Lanka’s only world class batsman at this World Cup
Angelo Matthews is arguably Sri Lanka’s only world class batsman at this World Cup

 

The former skipper has also had a testy relationship with cricket officials in Sri Lanka, a common theme among a playing group going to a World Cup at which the tag "long-shot" is probably something of an understatement.

 

PREDICTION

It is difficult to make a case for this Sri Lankan side achieving much in England other than damage limitation. The summit of their ambition may rest with trying to get ahead of Bangladesh to avoid finishing bottom of the pile.

 

FULL SQUAD
Dimuth Karunaratne (capt.), Lasith Malinga, Angelo Mathews, Thisara Perera, Kusal Perera, Dhananjaya de Silva, Kusal Mendis, Isuru Udana, Milinda Siriwardana, Avishka Fernando, Jeevan Mendis, Lahiru Thirimanne, Jeffrey Vandersay, Nuwan Pradeep, Suranga Lakmal

 

 

 

FIXTURES

Saturday, June 1: New Zealand (Cardiff, 7.30pm)

Wednesday, June 4: Afghanistan (Cardiff, 7.30pm)

Friday, June 7: Pakistan (Bristol, 7.30pm)

Tuesday, June 11: Bangladesh (Bristol, 7.30pm)

Saturday, June 15: Australia (The Oval, 7.30pm)

Friday, June 21: England (Headingley, 7.30pm)

Friday, June 28: South Africa (Chester-le-Street, 7.30pm)

Monday, July 1: West Indies (Chester-le-Street, 7.30pm)

Saturday, July 6: India (Headingley 7.30pm)

News Corp Australia


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