Sri Lanka’s bowing in safe hands at T-20 World Cup

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One major problem for Sri Lanka in recent years has been not having all their bowlers firing on all cylinders. Often the national team has gone into major competitions with second string attacks with injuries to several bowlers. During the last T-20 World Cup in Australia, several quicks broke down forcing the selectors to scratch the barrel and the trend continued during last year’s World Cup in India. 

Thankfully, all key bowlers are available for the upcoming T-20 World Cup in the US and the Caribbean and it can be said Sri Lanka is at full strength for this event. That is why people tend to get excited about the prospects of the team making it to the semi-finals in the 20-nation competition that gets underway in a fortnight’s time. 

Despite several bowlers being on the mend, Sri Lanka had done reasonably well in the last two T-20 World Cups in UAE and Australia and margins were narrow as they were knocked out of the semis. A bit more discipline with catching should have taken them over the line, particularly in Australia. 

Dushmantha Chameera with his smooth action and the pace he generates has been quite exciting to watch but in a stop start career stretching for ten years, he has never been fully fit to go through a tournament. Hopefully he’ll pull through in this competition and could trouble many opponents. Now 32, and probably at the tail-end of his career, Chameera despite all the promise hasn’t lived up to expectations. 

The most exciting among the Sri Lankan bowlers obviously is Matheesha Pathirana. The 21-year-old has been a sensation in the IPL and in Sri Lankan colours has given a glimpse of what he can do in the death overs sending down some high-pressure overs. However, his control has been an issue and the wides that he sent down during the home series against Afghanistan nearly cost the team. 

Pathirana is the ‘x-factor’ of the side and if he can get his line right, he will be quite handful as teams will be breaking their heads over how to tackle those thunderbolts coming at a pace around 145kmph with an awkward action.  

Although Pathirana among all Sri Lankan quicks in the last two years has been the sensation, the bowler to have made his presence felt is left-arm quick Dilshan Madushanka. In the World Cup last year, he finished with 21 wickets and only Adam Zampa (23) and Mohammad Shami (25) had more wickets than him in the tournament. Both Zampa and Shami represented the two teams that reached the finals in Ahmedabad. 

Madushanka provides breakthroughs with the new ball and he has proved to be reliable with his control while the swing he generates has troubled  many top order batting line-ups. It’s a shame that he missed the IPL this year due to injury. It would have been a good learning experience for the 23-year-old. 

The injuries have been not limited to quicks and at times the two key spinners – Wanindu Hasaranga and Maheesh Theekshana have suffered setbacks as well and that has been a major blow for the team. With both spinners and all the leading quicks available, the bowling attack looks quite formidable. 

Bowling has generally delivered and it is batting that has been a concern in white ball cricket but has shown signs of improvement this year. Pathum Nissanka’s superb form has held the batting together while Kusal Mendis came good hitting two half-centuries in the last T-20 series in Bangladesh. He was the Player of the Series in the three-match series that Sri Lanka won. 

Sadeera Samarawickrama and Charith Asalanka hold the middle order together and the latter in particular has come up with several rescue acts in the last two years. Angelo Mathews and Dasun Shanaka provide depth with their big hitting. The arrival of Kamindu Mendis should further strengthen batting. 

The team travelled to the US two weeks prior to the tournament to begin preparations. Their warm-up games against Netherlands and Ireland will be worked off in Florida and they will return to New York ahead of their opening game against South Africa on the 3rd June. 

Sri Lanka will play Bangladesh in Dallas and Nepal in Florida before flying out to the Caribbean for their last group game against Netherlands at St. Lucia. 

As expected, if Sri Lanka qualify for the second round, they will be based in Antigua where they play two of their three games. The remaining second round game is in the Caribbean island of St. Vincent’s.