Favourites for the First Time

The name is Sri Lanka. It’s not India. India was among the favourites in 1987 if not the favourite then. In 2003, but for a poor tour of Newzealand, India had a good year preceding the cup. Srilanka is indeed a strong favourite for the current world cup. Its squad contains all the ingredients to win a world cup in the subcontinent- strong batting, wicket taking spinners and good death bowlers. While recent talks have often surrounded India, Australia, Englans and South Africa for reasons obvious, Sri Lanka have slowly but surely made rapid strides of improvement with another bunch of youngsters. The team that finished runner up last time around will be disappointed if they at least didn’t repeat the feat again and would be despearte to go one step further.

Decisions to leave out Jayasuriya and Vaas, though tough, were inevitable. Upul Tharanga has been a consistent one day performer and has sometimes been unlucky to not have a test spot when lesser individuals have made it. Tilakaratne Dilshan picks himself but it’s been sometime since a big knock came from him. Flashy fifties have always been there but in a premier tournament he must do better. Kumar Sangakkara is at the peak of his career not least testified by his ICC batting ranking. One can expect him to lead from the front, but the later stages of the tournament will test his captaincy and probably in turn his batting. Mahela Jayawardene has epitomised freedon ever since he gave up captaincy and the free spirit has flown into his batting often resulting in silky smooth innings. Mahela is a player who relies on touch and timing more than footwork and technique. While that makes him suspect under seaming conditions, it becomes irrelevant in the sub continent. Scoring runs in India and Srilanka has been like bread and butter to him and it wont be surprising if he ends up a marquee player of the tournament. The top four present a solid look to the Lankan line up. Below that lies some tenderness that opposition teams will try to exploit. Thilan Samaraweera will most likely bat at number 5 unless the top four bat out 35 overs. Samaraweera is again a much better batsman in these conditions than he is otherwise. Chamara Silva and Chamara Kapugedera will be the other contenders for the spots 5 and 6. Chamara Silva is a good grafter but often struggles to switch gears in the later stages of the innings. Kapugedera has been pampered with chances time and again and the selectors’ generosity continues. Thilana Kandamby, who has not made the cut, should be in his place in my books. Kandamby showed a lot of promise when he came on to the scene and is definitely a much better player technically. Kandamby looked equipped enough to dowell in all conditions unlike Kapugedera. Srilanka have played very little outside the placid pitches of the subcontinent in the recent past. The spot under question is number 6 where big hitting matters more. These two factors could have tilted the scales in favour of Kapugedera though I am not convinced at all. In fact I would not play either of Chamara Silva or Kapugedera in the XI. Angelo Mathews who is a good enough batsman to bat at number 6 will take that spot followed by the other big hitting all rounder Thisara Perera at 7.

With the luxury of two genuine all rounders and Dilshan’s off spin, Sri Lanka’s bowling will be a force to reckon with. Sub continent! How many times has that word been written here?! The relevance cannot be missed when the names of Muthiah Muralitharan and Ajanta Mendis are mentioned. The two form the most threatening spin partnership of the tournament easily. Its very likely that the minnows will be bamboozled to paltry scores thanks to this twosome. Even teams like Newzealand and Australia might have a tough time and might take the wise decision of seeing them through instead of taking them on. Rangana Herath is the third spinner in the squad picked ahead of the talented Suraj Randiv- logical selection when you already have Muralitharan in the team. Young Randiv will get his chances once the legend bids goodbye at the end of the tournament. Lasith Malinga is probably the best death bowler since Wasim Akram and Waqar Younis. He is probably the player that makes this Lankan team more dangerous than the former sides. He is a genuine wicket taking fast bowler and Srilanka have had very few of those. Watch out for his toe crushers and the slower ones that make batsmen a laughing stock. The enigmatic Dilhara Fernando and the consistent Nuwan Kulasekara will vie for a spot in the XI. Kulasekara is a safer bet. He can swing the ball back in sharply, but his death bowling could make Srilanka vulnerable. Fernando on the other hand can prove to be a captain’s nightmare on his bad day. Not discounting his talent, consistency has never been his forte. With other attacking options available, Sangakkara would probably pick Kulasekara ahead of Fernando.

The four to sit out would probably be Chamara Silva, Chamara Kapugedera, Dilhara Fernando and Rangana Herath. Thats enough back up for a solid eleven. Srilanka will right fully carry the favourites tag into the tournament but time will tell if they justify it.

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One Comment on “Favourites for the First Time”

  1. SJK Says:

    Kandamby looked so composed when he played last. He looked a certainty in that lower middle order.
    I would have given Jayasuriya a final fo. His bowling gets magical in these conditions. He could have been used in the powerplays. His batting never got that bad.
    And I hate Malinga just like the way I hate Botha. I’ll play Kulasekara and Fernando.


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