Sri Lankan cricket has been at the centre of match-fixing and corruption allegations for some time now. Recently, the International Cricket Council (ICC) charged the team’s performance analyst Sanath Jayasundara with two counts of breaching the anti-corruption code and handed him a provisional suspension.
Former players Nuwan Zoysa and Avishka Gunawardene were also suspended by the ICC for breaching the Emirates Cricket Board’s anti corruption code. Sanath Jayasuriya, former captain and 1996 World Cup winner, too was banned for two years for failing to co-operate with an ICC investigation.
Off-field controversies apart, the islanders have witnessed a sharp decline in their cricketing fortunes since the 2015 World Cup. In 84 ODIs since the last edition, they have won 23 and lost 55.
The team hit a new low in 2017 after a visiting Zimbabwe side defeated them 3-2 in a five-match ODI series. They have not won a single bilateral ODI series since May 2016. The team has lost 41 of 54 ODIs since January 1, 2017 including 15 losses from 23 matches at home.
Add to it, they have played 8 ODIs this year losing all of them. The terror attacks on April 22 in Colombo have made matters worse. The carnage that left scores of people dead, affected Lanka’s World Cup preparations, forcing them to cancel a motivational camp in Maduru Oya and a training camp in Dambulla.
Dimuth Karunaratne (captain), Dhananjaya de Silva, Nuwan Pradeep, Avishka Fernando, Suranga Lakmal, Lasith Malinga, Angelo Mathews, Kusal Mendis (wk), Jeevan Mendis, Kusal Perera (wk), Thisara Perera, Milinda Siriwardana, Lahiru Thirimanne, Isuru Udana, Jeffrey Vandersay.
Head coach: Chandika Hathurusingha
World Cup always brings the best out of Sri Lanka and their record in the past four editions bears testimony to their tendency to lift their game in ICC events. Since their group stage exit in 1999, the island nation made it to the knockouts every time including two consecutive runners-up finishes in 2007 and 2011.
Given their impressive past performances, it will be unwise to write them off. With six all-rounders in their ranks, they can give a tough time to any side on their day.
Inexperience can lead to their downfall. Dimuth Karunaratne, who last played ODIs in 2015, is the captain. The left-hander might have had a decent Test season but he still remains untested in this format. Lahiru Thirimanne, Milinda Siriwardana, Jeevan Mendis and Jeffrey Vandersay too have been picked, despite not playing an ODI since at least 2017.
His all-round returns and World Cup experience make him an integral part of the team. This year, he is Sri Lanka’s highest run-getter in ODIs and the second highest wicket-taker behind Malinga. In 2018, he scored the joint-most runs for the team. His 25 wickets last year were only behind Akila Dananjaya’s 28.
The old warhorse can inspire with experience. He might be upset after being denied captaincy but he still remains Lanka’s best bowler. With 322 wickets in 218 games, the pacer is the highest wicket-taker in the world among the active players. His 43 wickets in 22 WC games are most by any bowler taking part in this tournament.