Sri Lanka, slated in a group with India, Pakistan and South Africa, will find its tough to qualify for knock-out phase of the tournament.
The island nation’s only success in the ICC Champions Trophy arrived at home in 2002 when Sri Lanka shared the title with India. In fact, Sri Lanka’s finest moments in ODIs have come in the sub-continent. The team’s lone World Cup triumph was achieved in these parts in 1996 with Sri Lanka besting Australia in the final in Lahore.
Three years later when it travelled to England to defend the title, the side came up woefully short, undone by the swinging, seaming conditions there. Sri Lanka is at its best, particularly in ODI cricket, on sluggish tracks where it can pin down opposition with its spinners and then chase down targets.
There have been the odd occasions when Sri Lanka surprised opponents away from the sub-continent — much of the credit for that goes to Mahela Jayawardene, Kumar Sangakkara, Lasith Malinga and Muttiah Muralitharan — but titles have been elusive.
Skipper Angelo Mathews and his wards will have a mountain to climb in testing English conditions. In the early part of the summer, the pitches might be damp and there could be plenty of lateral movement for the seamers.
Importantly, Sri Lanka will have to put runs on the board. The experienced Upul Tharanga at the top of the order has a vital role to play. And skipper Mathews has been solid in the middle-order. The others will have to bat around the two senior campaigners, and lend them support.
There is some talent around. For instance, Dinesh Chandimal is a batsman of exceptional ability but has, on occasions, been let down by his temperament. His shot-selection has not always been convincing. The Sri Lankan picks for the tournament are interesting. Apart from Chandimal, the side has three more wicketkeeper batsmen in Niroshan Dickwella, Kusal Mendis and Kusal Perera in the squad. Apparently, the finest young batsmen in Sri Lanka these days are also wicketkeepers!
Old warhorse Malinga has been recalled and Sri Lanka will be hoping that the slinger’s scorchers find their mark; Malinga last played in an ODI in 2015.
The lanky Suranga Lakmal can be effective in the English conditions with his movement and bounce. Then there is Nuwan Pradeep, a speedy slinger who has succeeded sporadically over the last few years. The selectors are also keen that Mathews — he seems to have put his fitness concerns behind — sends down his quota of 10 overs. The skipper’s nagging seam deliveries can be effective in England.
The selectors have also thrown in seasoned campaigners in the mix. Men such as Thisara Perera and Nuwan Kulasekara can make handy contributions with their bowling and powerful hitting. And the wise men still have faith in Chamara Kapugedera’s batting ability.
The side has promising spinners in leggie, Seekkuge Prasanna, and left-arm Chinaman bowler, Lakshan Sandakan. Prasanna is a useful batsman as well.
Sri Lanka has a tough job on hand. But then, you can never rule anyone out in cricket.
Angelo Mathews (captain), Upul Tharanga, Dinesh Chandimal, Niroshan Dickwella, Nuwan Pradeep, Asela Gunaratne, Chamara Kapugedera, Nuwan Kulasekara, Suranga Lakmal, Lasith Malinga, Kusal Mendis, Kusal Perera, Thisara Perera, Seekkuge Prasanna and Lakshan Sandakan.
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