ICC World Cup 2019: Analyzing Sri Lanka's squad
Sri Lanka Cricket have announced their provisional 15-man squad to represent Sri Lanka at the upcoming World Cup 2019. The squad is as follows:
Dimuth Karunaratne (c), Lasith Malinga, Angelo Mathews, Thisara Perera, Kusal Perera (wk), Dhananjaya de Silva, Kusal Mendis (wk), Isuru Udana, Milinda Siriwardana, Avishka Fernando, Jeevan Mendis, Lahiru Thirimanne, Jeffrey Vandersay, Nuwan Pradeep, and Suranga Lakmal.
Karunaratne, Malinga, Mathews, Thisara, Kusal, Thiramanne, Jeevan Mendis and Lakmal are the only players remaining from Sri Lanka's original 2015 World Cup squad, where Karunaratne and Mendis later withdrew due to injury.
Sri Lanka's poor ODI form over the last two years necessitated wholesale changes; emphasis was given to the recently concluded provincial one-day tournament in Sri Lanka to throw up players for consideration. That meant that previously identified players such as Upul Tharanga, Niroshan Dickwella, Danushka Gunathilaka, Akila Dananjaya and Dinesh Chandimal were omitted from the World Cup squad.
Identifying a captain was another problem to solve. Having tried different captains in Angelo Mathews, Upul Tharanga, Dinesh Chandimal and Lasith Malinga, the selectors have decided upon Dimuth Karunaratne as their leader for the World Cup, despite the fact that he hasn't played an ODI match since 2015. He did lead the team to a surprise Test series win against South Africa recently though, where the team played with a freedom and a joy that had been lacking in recent times.
Karunaratne was also appointed in part because of a lack of faith in the other candidates, and a reluctance to give the reins to Mathews again following his sacking and scapegoating after Sri Lanka's early exit from last year's Asia Cup. Chandimal did not have the performances and consistency to merit selection despite a decent captaincy record, and Malinga did not have the team's backing despite his tactical acumen.
The squad selected has a decent mix of experience and youth, and features players in good form following the provincial one-day tournament. Mathews and Thiramanne were the leading run-scorers, Malinga impressed with 7/49 in one match, and Karunaratne solidified his one-day credentials with 165 runs at a strike rate over 90.
Karunaratne, Kusal Perera, Mathews, Kusal Mendis, Dhananjaya de Silva and Thiramanne will form the batting core for Sri Lanka.
Thisara Perera plays as the main all-rounder and will be looking to continue to his good form from 2018, where he was one of the few bright spots in an otherwise terrible year for Sri Lanka.
The bowling attack selected has an experienced look with Malinga, Suranga Lakmal, and Nuwan Pradeep the three main pace bowlers. Meanwhile, Jeffrey Vandersay, Dhananjaya de Silva, and Milinda Siriwardana are the designated spin bowlers.
Kasun Rajitha, Wanindu Hasaranga, Angelo Perera and Oshada Fernando have been placed on standby should any player be withdrawn.
Batting 50 overs regularly is something Sri Lanka would be looking for, and having experienced players in Thiramanne and Mathews in the batting lineup should give them some confidence in achieving that. Taking wickets during the middle overs is also a concern, with much hope placed on the bowling of De Silva and wrist spinner Jeevan Mendis.
Avoiding injury and maintaining fitness would also be high on the priority list for Sri Lanka, especially with Mathews frequently sidelined due to leg injuries.
Prediction: Anything can happen with this World Cup format, but it appears unlikely that Sri Lanka will make it past the group stage.