ICC World Cup squad profile: Qualifiers Sri Lanka need to make the chance count

Absence of injured leg spinner Wanindu Hasaranga likely to hurt the former champions in India

World Cup squad (Courtesy: X/Sri Lanka Cricket)
World Cup squad (Courtesy: X/Sri Lanka Cricket)

Gautam Bhattacharyya

It was almost an anomaly that Sri Lanka, a past winner and two-time runners-up of the 50-overs World Cup, had to play qualifiers to make the cut this time. However, if the showpiece remains a 10-team affair in future, it will not be unusual to see any of the below-par full member nation having to come up the ranks this way.  

While Dasun Shanaka’s Islanders could make it along with The Netherlands, an association member, two-time champions West Indies failed to do so for the first time. It’s now up to Lanka to make it count on conditions that they are extremely familiar with – and despite their capitulation against India in the Asia Cup final – Lanka looked capable of providing a few surprises. 

In the continental event last month, they first the turned the tables on an experimental Indian team (which rested a number of their key players after being assured of a final berth) and then pipped Pakistan to set up a final against India. Then came Mohammed Siraz and his dream over when he picked up four wickets and ended with a haul of 6-21, but it’s not going to happen every day. 

After having moaned about the transitional phase for long since the departure of the Sangakkara-Jayawardene-Tillekaratne generation, they have some quality and experience among the top order batters in openers Kusal Perera and Pathum Nisanka, Kusal Mendis and Charith Asalanka, the latter being their highest ranked batsman at No.27. However, skipper Shanaka’s form with the bat has been a matter of concern while the lower order seems to lack the depth to take the team over the line in this format. 

There is no doubt that the Lankans will be missing the leg spinner-allrounder Wanindu Hasaranga badly, but they have to still bank on a young spin attack led by Maheesh Theeksana – the fastish off spinner  who is their highest ranked bowler at No.16. Dushan Hemantha, a like-for-like replacement for Hasaranga but with just three ODIs behind him, has been named but Hasaranga will travel with the squad as a rehab and continue his rehabilitation in India. If the team management is satisfied with his recovery and should there be any need for replacement during such a long tournament, then he will be considered. 

Matheesha Pathirana, the young pace bowler with a sling arm action (no prizes for guessing who the inspiration is), will have a challenge in bowling 10 overs against top batters on such batting friendly conditions – but it will also mature the Chennai Super Kings bowler by leaps and bounds. 

In the 2019 edition in England, Sri Lanka finished sixth in the group stage and failed to qualify for the semi-finals. A last four prospect for them look far-fetched this time as well, but then, stranger things have happened in this sport.    

Sri Lanka squad: Dasun Shanaka (c), Kusal Mendis (vc), Kusal Perera, Pathum Nissanka, Dimuth Karunaratne, Sadeera Samarawickrama, aCharith Asalanka, Dhananjaya de Silva, Dushan Hemantha, Maheesh Theekshana, Dunith Wellalage, Kasun Rajitha, Matheesha Pathirana, Lahiru Kumara, Dilshan Madushanka. 

Best performance: Winners: 1996; Runners-up: 2007, 2011

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Published: 02 Oct 2023, 2:06 PM