The Asian sides, barring Pakistan when they get their act right, have traditionally found it difficult to come to terms with the seaming conditions in England. The case is no different for Sri Lanka. However, in recent years, they have shown significant improvement while touring challenging countries like Australia and England. They gave a tough fight to the Aussies in last tri-series held there. Above all, they bashed England 5-0 in England back in 2006. Teams must thus underestimate the Lankans at their own peril.
Present squad: Angelo Mathews (captain), Dinesh Chandimal (vice-captain), Dilhara Lokuhettige, Tillakaratne Dilshan, Shaminda Eranga, Rangana Herath, Mahela Jayawardene, Nuwan Kulasekara, Lasith Malinga, Jeevan Mendis, Kusal Perera, Thisara Perera, Kumar Sangakkara (wicketkeeper), Sachithra Senanayake, Lahiru Thirimanne
Tillakaratne Dilshan: The veteran Lankan opener will be critical to his team’s chances at the top of the order. Dilshan’s aggression has often won Lanka matches rather easily. Of course, with only strong opponents in this event, his task will be tougher. But Dilshan will have to come up with the goods if Sri Lanka are to put up an impressive showing in the tournament. His performance will be even more crucial considering the inexperience in the lower middle-order. Also Mahela Jayawardene and Kumar Sangakkara seem to have gone past their best, which means Dilshan will have to shoulder additional responsibility.
Lasith Malinga: The slinger, without doubt, will be the team’s chief weapon with the ball. Malinga will need to strike the early breakthroughs and make the task easier for the rest. He can expect good support from the steady Nuwan Kulasekara, who himself can be deadly on his day, as was evident in Australia. But, the fact is that Malinga will have to deliver the goods, just like he did in the IPL final. It goes without saying that when Malinga gets his act right, a Sri Lankan win is all but guaranteed.
Angelo Mathews: Sri Lanka’s skipper, Mathews is undoubtedly the team’s most resourceful player. He is a potential match-winner with the bat, and a more than steady medium pacer, who can exploit the conditions well if they are in his favour. It will be primarily as a batsman though that the team would be expecting significant contributions from their skipper. Mathews has the ability to play both the ‘waiting game’ as well as the attacking one. This feature of his batting is also his greatest asset.
Thisara Perera: Almost unknowingly, Perera has become an indispensable part of the Lankan outfit. He often comes in at the death and plays the quickfire cameo which makes the big difference. On his day, he can also be dangerous with the ball.
Weaknesses: Skipper Mathews is yet to settle into his role as leader. This has affected his performance to an extent, and also that of the team’s. Also, some of the names in the Lankan squad are unknown quantities.
Past record: Sri Lanka were joint-winners with India in 2002, in the championship that was held in Sri Lanka itself. That apart, they haven’t tasted much success.
--By A Cricket Analyst