As hosts of the World T20, Sri Lanka will want to do more than just ensure that all their guests get enough chips and dip while a good playlist is running in the background.


Sri Lanka last won a World Cup in 1996, when they were co-hosts, and they will consider 2011 as a lost opportunity. That makes this year’s tournament their best chance in the years to come, as Sangakkara, Jayawardene and Malinga won’t be around forever.

She married him for his boyish good looks…


Squad

Mahela Jayawardene (c), Dinesh Chandimal, Tillakaratne Dilshan, Akila Dananjaya, Shaminda Eranga, Rangana Herath, Nuwan Kulasekara, Lasith Malinga, Angelo Mathews, Ajantha Mendis, Jeewan Mendis, Dilshan Munaweera, Thisara Perera, Kumar Sangakkara (wk), Lahiru Thirimanne.


Strengths

Sri Lanka’s all-rounders make them one of the most balanced sides in the tournament. There are plenty of big hitters and they could bat very deep should they choose to.

The opening partnership of Tillakaratne Dilshan and Mahela Jayawardene is one of the best going, rivaling that of Australia’s combination of Warner and Watson. What Australia doesn’t have, though, is recent Cricketer of the Year and professional flutist (unconfirmed) Kumar Sangakkara. He will play many pants-wetting cover drives over the next few weeks.

Sangakkara won three ICC trophies last week: best hair, best speech, and best cover drive.

Despite his confoundingly poor performances against India, Lasith Malinga remains one of the leading bowlers in T20 cricket, and he will be looking to hit as many toes as possible. On the field, of course. It might even be a hobby of his, but I don’t know anything about his personal life.


Weaknesses

Remember when I said that Sri Lanka could bat very deep “should they choose to”? No? I’ll give you a second to scroll up.

Yeah. Getting more batsmen in, the big hitting all-rounders in particular, would mean not picking all their best bowlers. For Sri Lanka to have backbone in their line-up, they need to pick Chandimal, Mathews and Thirimanne at nos. 4,5 and 6. And if they then pick their three best bowlers – Malinga, Kulasekara and Herath – that only leaves two spots open for both Mendises and Thisara Perera. Sri Lanka are more likely to pick more all-rounders, which means they will be compromising on either batting stability, bowling quality, or both.


Players to Watch

Mahela Jayawardene. It is rare for a class player to look better in T20, but this man is like a free bird in this format. Batting at the top and timing it exquisitely…why would anyone want to look at a cheerleader when he’s at the crease?

Ajantha Mendis. In his absence, Sunil Narine has established himself as the world’s leading mystery spinner, and Mendis will want to bring his carrom balls back into the public eye. Who knows, he might even have a new delivery that swings away in the air, feints spinning back into the batsman before going back in the other direction, all while the X-Files theme emanates from the ball. It will be sorely disappointing if that’s not what the teesra is all about.


Vital Statistics

Mahela Jayawardene is the highest run-getter in all World T20s combined, with 615 runs at 41. Dilshan is third on that list, with 453 runs at 32.

Can Dilshan scoop Sri Lanka to victory?

Jayawardene is also one of the three batsmen to make a century in the World T20, the others being Chris Gayle and Suresh Raina.

Lasith Malinga, with 25 wickets at 17, is the third-highest wicket taker in the World T20, after Shahid Afridi and Umar Gul. Among the top 5 wicket takers, though, Malinga has the highest economy rate with 7.41, significantly higher than the next highest, Mitchell Johnson’s 6.72.


Did you know?

Rangana Herath’s first name is actually Herath, thus making him “Herath Herath.”
The average Sri Lankan player in this squad has 38 letters in his name. 

Rangana Herath remains one of the most wily, underrated spinners going.


Previous World T20 Form

2007: Knocked out at the Super Eights stage after losing to Pakistan and Australia, though they did score what remains the highest T20I Innings total, 260 against Kenya.

2009: Lost the final to Pakistan, a heavy 8-wicket defeat.

2010: Lost their semi-final to eventual winners England by 7 wickets.


Verdict

Jayawardene has said that their all-rounders will boost them, but more explosive batting sides could benefit from facing their bit-part bowlers. Sri Lanka’s best bet was preparing slower tracks to suit their selection of four regular spinners, and they will need their top three as well as Lasith Malinga to be firing on all cylinders to have a shot at going all the way.

As things stand, they will probably not make it past the semi-finals.


written by Rishabh Bablani aka The Cricket Nerd

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