For a team that plays finals of world events almost like it were a habit, not enough people talk up Sri Lanka. If I was a Sri Lankan fan I would be a touch annoyed because on paper, they cover almost all flanks.
Everyone I have been talking to recently says you need experience at the World Cup. It is not to be confused with tired legs and spent minds. In Sri Lanka’s top four reside three of the most experienced players and two of them are in threatening form. Sangakkara is annoyed with Sri Lankan cricket but he has played his heart out in recent times and is in delectable form. It is fairly safe to say that if Sri Lanka go far he would have played a big hand.
A couple of years ago you wondered if Dilshan would last this long but not only has he lasted, he has played some key innings for Sri Lanka. This is not the Dilshan who teed off any more but he is still fit and scoring well. And even if Jayawardene has hit a bad patch leading into his last tournament, his class is proven and he can come good anytime. The Trimurti of Sri Lankan cricket would like to bid farewell in style.
They are lucky to have a vastly experienced and yet fairly young man following them in the order. Apart from Sangakkara, Angelo Mathews is the other vital element to Sri Lanka’s fortunes because he provides a seam bowling option and bats in the top six. For an Asian country that is a luxury and given that he is game to open the bowling that makes him invaluable. There is also a calmness abouthim, even when he is belting the ball at the end. Sri Lanka has invested very wisely in him.
Mathews and Thisara Perera provide the balance that sub-continent teams playing away rarely get. Perera might be a bit of this, a bit of that and not enough of either but because Sri Lanka have a wicket keeper and two bowling options in the top six, they can play him as a dangerous floater at number 7. To be honest, there isn’t a lot of batting to follow though Kulasekara is a better player than he often gets credit for and therefore it is imperative Sri Lanka bowl well. In New Zealand they were sometimes bowling 35 overs of spin and clearly that is not an optimal mix.
And so they will be looking towards Lasith Malinga. When fit, the yorker obeys hiscommand, when he isn’t, he can be knocked around because modern bats are very harsh on anything that isn’t the perfect yorker. He will probably play a role later in the tournament because he has far too little bowling behind him for a tournament of this value. But with Herath, Senanayake and Lakmal, it is ostensibly the best bowling side from the sub-continent.
I think Sri Lanka could become contenders if they start putting runs on the board consistently and that means Sangakkara and Mathews will be key. I am not sure they are favourites but they are bubbling under.