Sri Lanka have a respectable history with ICC tournaments. While their record in the World Cups is emphatic, their numbers in the ICC Champions Trophy aren’t spineless either. A joint pole position in the 3rd edition of the tournament along with India, semi-finalists in the previous volume- the Lankans have always managed to register satisfactory results.
The Revamped Lankan Legion
SRI LANKA IN THE CHAMPIONS TROPHY
1998- SEMI- FINALISTS
2004- GROUP STAGE
2006- GROUP STAGE
2009- GROUP STAGE
2013- SEMI- FINALISTS
The Lankans move into the tournament as the least likely side to win the coveted trophy. Kumar Sangakkara and Mahela Jayawardena did call it a day a couple of years back. Tilakaratne Dilshan also hung up his boots not so long ago. Within the three of them, we’re looking at 1170 matches(3*Sachin Tendulakr) and a total of 36,646(2*Sachin Tendulkar) runs. Those are colossal numbers- for that to happen a good 2 decades of consistent and top-notch cricket is needed.
The Lankans though, have managed to identify genuine talents. Kusal Mendis, Asela Gunaratne, Lakshan Sandakan have all made a bright impression in international cricket. With proper honing these lads are certain to get Lanka on the competent map within no time. The team will be led by Angelo Matthews. Dinesh Chandimal, Chamara Kapugedara, Nuwan Kulasekara and Lasith Malinga need to get their A-game going. Malinga last played an ODI in November 2015. His presence will help boost the confidence of the team. While the youngsters can take a leaf out of his book, to learn the art of deception, Malinga himself can plan his encounter with Virat Kohli.
SRI LANKA SQUAD for CHAMPIONS TROPHY 2017
SRI LANKA: Angelo Matthews(c), 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, Lakshan Sandakan.
Match Fixtures for Sri Lanka in CT 2017
SRI LANKA HAVE INDIA, PAKISTAN AND SOUTH AFRICA IN THEIR GROUP.
JUNE 3, GROUP B: SRI LANKA VS SOUTH AFRICA at the OVAL. JUNE 8, GROUP B: INDIA VS SRI LANKA at the OVAL. JUNE 12, GROUP B: SRI LANKA VS PAKISTAN at CARDIFF.
Upul Tharanga, after a massive 7-year gap made a to International cricket. Since his comeback Tharanga has managed 590 runs in 25 games.A total of 14 hundreds in ODI’s puts him above the rest in the current squad. The others though have managed a total of 10 hundreds. The stat surely show the inexperience of the squad but the Lankans are a much better team on the field than on paper. His stay at the wicket will determine their chances of posting a match winning target. Also, in chases, if he sets up the pace of the innings, Lanka will fancy their chances.
THARANGA IN ODIS: MATCHES 200, RUNS 5919, AVERAGE 33.44, STRIKE RATE 74.61.
Tharanga’s absence for almost 7 years from international cricket shows how much cricket has evolved. A player from the 1st decade of the 21st century would have been content with a strike rate of 75 or thereabouts. In the modern era, anything around 85 is considered a slow going. The game has transformed into a heavy weight bout, where punches are exchanged and where no team gives up until the final delivery has been bowled.
About a month ago, Angelo Mathews was out due to a recurring hamstring injury. Malinga had injury issues— he was in and out of the national team. The two have been genuine match winners for the Lankan team. Malinga did play the IPL and looked in improved form. Will he be able to maintain the same levels of concentration for 10 overs. He’s done well in the 20-over format. One over spells don’t really test a bowler’s fitness. In the Champions Trophy, however, Malinga needs to gain his complete toughness. He’s mastered the art of death-bowling. Toe crushing yorkers, slinging slower-ones over the years have helped him uproot stumps and also keep a check on the run-rate.
MALINGA IN ODIS: MATCHES 191, WICKETS 291, AVERAGE 27.77, ECONOMY 5.26
IN ENGLAND: MATCHES 19, WICKETS 33, AVERAGE 26.06, ECONOMY 5.44.
The last 10 ODI’s against INDIA, PAKISTAN AND SOUTH AFRICA:
AGAINST WON LOST WINNING %
INDIA 2 8 20
SOUTH AFRICA 6 4 60
PAKISTAN 2 8 20
Sri Lanka clearly aren't the squad they were once. Also, the young lads need to be persisted with. The talent is evident, but how will the administration and the think tank make complete use of it, is the issue to ponder about.
THE YOUNG BRIGADE: Lakshan Sandakan has already made a mark for himself in the 5-day format. The wrist spinner can make his presence felt in the Champions trophy— also, he brings a mystical positivity to the Lankan attack. Not many have played him, which can work in his favour. His control and accuracy can be counted upon in the middle overs.
Asela Gunaratne helped Sri Lanka beat Australia 3-0 in the T20I series in Australia. Not only did he bail his team out of trouble but took the game to the very end, eventually hitting a boundary over covers to seal a famous victory for Sri Lanka in the 2nd T20I played at the Kardinia park. In the ODIs, Gunaratne averages a little over 35, good enough for an all-rounder. With his ability to find boundaries at regular intervals and bowl right arm-medium fast, Gunaratne will be the player to watch out for.
Sri Lanka might not be favourites to clinch the title but their personality in the major events can never be doubted. They’ve never walked into a tournament as favourites, but they do get better as the tournament progresses. 3 games they’ve got to prove their tenacity. Will the pressure to succeed in an ICC event get the better of the Lankans or will the Angelo Mathews led unit leave us dumbfound? The former Champions will be put to the test in the Champions Trophy 2017.