If you look at the history of the Cricket World Cup in the last two decades, Sri Lanka will actually turn out being among the most consistent performers without actually having won it since the 1996 edition. They were thrashed in 1999, but made the semis in 2003 in spite of an embarrassing loss to Kenya, and ended up as runners-up in the last two editions. The win against India in the 2011 would have hurt them a lot, since it was their best chance to clinch the trophy for the second time, on the sub-continent.
The Lankans recently featured in a one-day series in New Zealand, and although they lost, failing to cope with the conditions, the visitors did register a couple of impressive victories, which should give them confidence heading into the World Cup. Unlike Tests, where they have often struggled to cope with the conditions, the Lankans are a force in ODIs, irrespective of the conditions. What will go in their favour in this World Cup is the vast amount of experience they have, with five players having been on the international scene for over a decade, some for much more than that.
Lasith Malinga: With due credit to all their great batsmen, Sri Lanka wouldn’t be as dangerous as they are without Malinga. The Lankan pace spearhead has made his presence felt in the last two editions of the World Cup, being instrumental in the team’s journey to the finals. On his day, Malinga is unplayable, and no one bowls the swinging yorker better than him. It wouldn’t be wrong to say that Lanka cannot win the World Cup without him being on top of his game.
Tillakaratne Dilshan: He may be on the wrong side of 30s, but Dilshan is agile as ever with the bat as well as in the field. Opening the innings, Dilshan’s performance is the key, more so because he doesn’t have an established opening partner as yet. Dilshan can take on the best of attacks, and come up on top. If he fires, he will put Lanka in a good position at the start.
Kumar Sangakkara: Mahela Jayawardene and Sangakkara are the two pillars of Lankan batting, but when it comes to performing away from home, the elegant left-hander has an edge. He has proved to have a better technique to deal with challenging conditions. Sangakkara is versatile as he can hold the innings together and also open up when the situation demands. An invaluable player for his team.
Angelo Mathews: TheSri Lankan skipper will have a key role being one of the all-rounders. With the bat, he will need to get the quick runs towards the end of an innings, and with the ball, he will have to chip in with a wicket or two every now and then. A high utility player, who can be a match winner on his day.
Squad: Angelo Mathews (capt.), Tillakaratne Dilshan, Dimuth Karunaratne, Lahiru Thirimanne, Kumar Sangakkara, Mahela Jayawardene, Dinesh Chandimal, Jeevan Mendis, Thisara Perera, Nuwan Kulasekara, Rangana Herath, Suranga Lakmal, Lasith Malinga, Sachithra Senanayake, Dhammika Prasad
February 14 vs New Zealand at Christchurch
February 22 vs Afghanistan at Dunedin
February 26 vs Bangladesh at Melbourne
March 1 vs England at Wellington
March 8 vs Australia at Sydney
March 11 vs Scotland at Hobart
--By A Cricket Analyst