They are one of the strongest contenders of the trophy simply because it’s played to their strength – it is played at home. Not just at their home but at their neighbor’s home as well. But in Indian subcontinent, we believe that there is not much difference between our home and neighbor’s home. Wickets will be slow and low, SL has bowlers who can be slower and lower. Here is my take on their team –
K Sangakkara – He is their best player, no doubt about it. While SL happens to be the only team in the world till date who has survived another Munich, Sanga has another record to his credit. He remains the only cricketer alive to have received an apology from an umpire for a supposedly wrong decision . As a captain, Lanka has won 25 matches under his captaincy and lost just four – a record great enough to give headache to rest of the teams. But like every captain, he must have got some weakness as well and teams know where to find them. A Bollywood actress might have some answers.
M. Jayawardhene - Mahela is like a typical Indian batsman – he rocks at home and flops away. If SL can somehow destroy all the cricket stadiums in the world apart from Sinhalese Sports Club Ground, they might force the breed called bowlers to commit suicide. Mahela scores 48 runs per innings when he plays in SSC as compared to career average of 32. Alas, Lanka are not playing at SSC. They are playing in Premdasa where his average is 29. Only if their cricket board had hired me before deciding the venues for the world cup, they would have increased the probability of Mahela’s success. But it’s not my fault if this world doesn’t recognize a genius.
T. Dilshan - Dilshan is SL’s Jimmy Adams. He has played as a specialist batsman, as a batsman who bowls spin, as a spinner who can bat and as a wicketkeeper batsman. Just that recently, difference in his and Adam’s batting has expanded like Arjuna Ranatunga’s waist line. Unlike rest of the SL batsmen, he has done much well out of Indian subcontinent in last 2 years. During last 2 years, his average out of Indian sub continent is 59 with a strike rate of 103 whereas when he is playing in the subcontinent, his average drops to 47 – a clear indication that he is 25% less effective in the subcontinent. But even 75% of Dilshan may be enough to force you out of the world cup. After Mankad, he is the only cricketer to have named a cricketing term after him. While Dislcoop has brought him lot of runs, it has also brought failure to lot of batsmen trying to copy it. Recently, Dilshan has been showing others how to fail more miserably while playing this stroke. Let’s see what he and others do better this time - play this stroke better or fail.
D. Fernando – This tall and bulky pacer is known as Ajit Agarkar of Sri Lanka. In a t20 match against India, when India needed 18 of 12, SL captain handed over the ball to Fernando. Entire stadium shouted No-No. SL captain didn’t bother, neither did Fernando and gave away 13 in his over. Other teams will be banking on his Agarkar-like always deliver talent – both can deliver when needed most but in opposition’s favor. Fernando is believed to have the slowest bouncer in the game. Some of the bouncers were so slow that they are yet to reach the batsman. Incidentally, ICC has put a condition on his selection that he can take part in WC11 only if all his slow bouncers complete their trajectory before 19th February 2011. He will surely be an asset in WC11 – just that for which side is something which remains to be seen.
Angelo Matthews – When SRK bought him for IPL, he thought he would be buying his own version of Shane Watson. He gave him the pretence in first match with a wonderful performance. In rest of the tournament, Angelo proved that his performance was mere pretence. While he is capable of big hitting and useful bowling, teams other than India need not fear him for his bowling. Indian batsmen have been really kind to him. While he has played 33% of his matches against India, a big surprise that it is not 100%, he has taken 50% of his wickets against India. Just that Indian bowlers have compensated for this under performance – his batting average against India is 33% lower than his average against the rest. But Australians will surely vouch for his batting talent .
Ajantha Mendis - Few years back, Mendis foxed Indian batsmen like no other spinner has done in the history of cricket. But it looks like he foxed himself as well by his performance. If you have done very well against India at the start of your career, it is quite likely that you have touched your peak – something you would not like to do at the start of your career. It’s a curse which we Indians have reserved for any new comer doing well against us - ask Recardo Powell. In the very first year of his career, Mendis took 64 wickets in 28 matches i.e. 2.29 wickets per match. He took 24 wickets against India in 10 matches. After his first year, he has played only 17 matches and taken 14 wickets. In the same period, he has played just 6 matches against India which is really surprising when we see India playing SL more than a stock analyst plays the “Weak global cues” theory every time stock market tanks. To add to that, Mendis has taken just 4 wickets in 6 matches. May be he is SL’s Narendra Hirwani. One thing is sure, if SL plays India in this world cup, Yusuf Pathan must be licking his lips.
M. Muralitharan – The greatest off spinner to have played the game, ever - few may argue against it. The greatest off spinner to have been doubted because of his action – even fewer can argue against it. But one cannot argue against 800 test wickets. So what if 25% of them have come against minnows. He has announced that he will retire after the world cup hence we can safely assume that this will be his last world cup. After all, he doesn’t come from a country bordering us at our western border.
Thisara Perera – When MSD played him at the nets of CSK, Perera bowled 4 overs. All of them were at a perfect Yorker length. So MSD played him in a match. Perera went for a plenty. But when MSD played him in ODIs, story was different. 12 of his 22 ODI wickets have come against India. I bet he is off to the path Ajantha Mendis. But he has one quality which signifies SL’s bowling – he can be suffocating. He is a useful batsman down the order. Opposition must watch out for him.
Rangana Herath – Decent leg spinner. Sehwag may thing otherwise.
Chamara Kapugedera – He is SL’s Rohit Sharma – 5 years, 83 matches, and batting average of 23. Some say he has loads of talent. His record says otherwise.
Chamara Silva – Once there was H, Tilakratne. Then there was R. Arnold. Now SL has Chamara Silva. India has had just one Hemang Badani. Silva is not good enough to secure his place in batting lie up in a career spanning 12 years. He is good enough to make a comeback again and again. Silva is not great in batting but good in fielding. He can roll his arm over. India will watch out for him as like Arnold, he is always there to hurt them. Silva’s only 100 came against India.
N. Kulasekara – Kula is SL’s Praveen Kumar – good swing bowler but at a better pace. Sehwag doesn’t think he should be allowed to bowl hence he often loses his wicket to Kula. India has fed him with enough runs to believe that he is an all-rounder. Kula averages 26 against India whereas his career average is 17. But he can be quite useful as a strike bowler.
U Tharanga - He is Jayasuriya’s replacement. May be he is not as explosive as Jayasuriya was but Tharanga can be quite dangerous especially against minnows. But he is a good batsman.
T. Samarweera – He is the only cricketer post second world war to have survived a bullet attack. Few years back, he made his debut against India as an off spinner. India made him discover his hidden talent which is the talent of a solid middle order batsman. He scored a ton on debut which sent him to the rarest of rare breed – Samarweera is one of the few cricketers who did well against India at the start of their career and still managed to survive a decade. I guess surviving a bullet was lot easier than surviving Indian curse. He will be their most important batsman after Sanga and Mahela.
L. Malinga – And now to the superstar, the X factor and THE WEAPON which can be decisive factor on SL’s fate in this WC. He can be the most dangerous bowler in death-overs but it could be either ways. Future of Malinga’s bowling form can be guessed by his current hair style. If he has colored his hair in gold, grown them long enough to hide his eyes and curled them, it means his form will soon slump down to such a low that he will be kicked out of the side. If his hair style is more sober, it means batsmen will have a tough time facing him for at least a year. I don’t know what his current hair style is.
SL, given that WC is played in subcontinent, has the best chance of lifting the trophy on 2nd of April. But I hope we Indians will snatch it away from them. More than that, I hope we do not play against them in this WC. I JUST CANNOT TOLERATE ANOTHER INDIA-SRI LANKA ENCOUNTER. I JUST CANNOT.