Will the struggling Sri Lanka side overcome adversity and make it through to the knockouts or struggle in the 2019 World Cup? Here’s more.
Sri Lanka have appeared in every edition of the ICC Cricket World Cup since its inauguration in 1975. The Lions were semi-finalists in 2003; runner-up twice in back-to-back World Cups held in 2007 and 2011; and champions in 1996, making them the only team in history to do so after winning qualification through the ICC World Cup Qualifier tournament.
They head to England & Wales as the eighth placed team in the ICC ODI Team Rankings after a string of underwhelming results in the past three years.
Sri Lanka endured a torrid 2017 losing all six series’ they played, suffering whitewashes against South Africa, Pakistan and India; there was a surprising five-match-series defeat by the odd result to minnows Zimbabwe; the team finished bottom of their group in the ICC Champions Trophy 2017 thereby failing to qualify for the knockout stages.
2018 would bring about an early change of fortunes as Sri Lanka won a tri-nation series consisting of Zimbabwe and Bangladesh, but success continued to elude them as series defeats to South Africa on home soil and England away would make up the rest of the year.
2019 would be off to a disastrous start with both New Zealand and South Africa inflicting a series of severe defeats as Sri Lanka failed to win a single match, having lost all eight games played.
Ahead of cricket’s showpiece event the selectors have named Dimuth Karunaratne as captain of the side, the batsman last played an ODI in the last edition of the tournament and only has 17 ODI innings under his belt with a batting average of 15.83.
Sri Lanka look to make up for their captain’s inexperience with a handful of old guards, stalwarts Angelo Mathews and Lasith Malinga have both played over 200 ODIs, the former boasts a batting average of 42.36 and led Sri Lanka to their Asia Cup triumph in 2014 while the later is considered one of the greatest limited over bowlers of all time with 322 ODI wickets to his name and captained the Lankan Lions to victory in the 2014 ICC World Twenty20.
Left-handed batsman Lahiru Thirimanne and all-rounder Thisara Perara also add a wealth of experience to the side. Things look grim for Sri Lanka on account of recent results but legendary fast bowler and World Cup winner Chaminda Vaas has stated the team can do well in the upcoming tournament, highlighting their 1996 campaign as inspiration when Sri Lanka came in to the tournament as massive underdogs only to go all the way to win it.
Vaas believes this current crop of cricketers also possess special talent capable of producing match winning performances but first and foremost he calls for unity within the team which he believes is the foundation for success moving forward.