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Sri Lanka All Time ODI XI

The 65,600 km² piece of land at the top of the Indian Ocean has produced quite a few cricketing stalwarts within its relatively short stay on the international stage.

Like most other teams Sri Lanka had a rough start to their international journey, winning only 15 matches up until 1990. Even then the famous fighting spirit associated with the Lankan Lions was always on display. Sri Lanka’s victory over India in the 1979 World Cup still remains one of the most memorable upsets of the format.

Gargantuan captains like Duleep Mendis and Arjuna Ranatunga had an impeccable influence in Sri Lanka’s steep rise to glory, a glory which no team had achieved so swiftly, prior to them.

Other immaculate individuals such as Kumar Sangakkara, Muttaih Muralitharan and others maintained the golden standard throughout the early twentieth century, cementing the Ceylon nation as one of the best cricketing nations in the world.

Currently, the team is going through a down point, the primary vice being inconsistency. Still, there are moments such as last year’s Asia Cup win which gives the whole cricketing fraternity hope that the sleeping lion would roar again.

Thus we present Sri Lanka’s All Time ODI XI to you, celebrating cricket’s ultimate underdog.

Sanath Jayasuriya

We start things off with the Matara Marauder! Sanath Jayasuriya is one of the few elite players who were able to change the public’s perception of how one should approach a 50-over game.

  • Matches: 445
  • Runs: 13430
  • Batting Average: 32.36
  • Batting Strike Rate: 91.20
  • Wickets: 323
  • Bowling Average: 36.75
  • Bowling Strike Rate: 46.00
  • Economy: 4.78

The average batting strike of openers in the year 1995 stood at 65.31. This figure rose up to 74.58 in the year 1996. One of the potential reasons? Jayasuriya’s performance in 1996 where he scored nearly 1K runs at a strike rate of 112.5, something which had never been done before that. Along with his clobbering powerplay displays, Sanath also had the ability to convert these starts to huge hundreds; holding the record for most 150+ scores before Sachin overtook him.

Sanath’s batting achievements often obscure his bowling achievements. In fact, Jayasuriya started his international career as a bowler and played as such for the first five years of his career. Eventually, his bowling performances would deteriorate, but hey, he’s the 4th highest wicket-taker for Sri Lanka.

Tillakaratne Dilshan

Having made his international debut at the turn of the millennium, Dilshan like all other cricketers had trouble finding his footing at the initial phase of his career, only that this phase took up the first 10 years of his ODI career.

  • Matches: 330
  • Runs: 10290
  • Batting Average: 39.27
  • Batting Strike Rate: 86.23
  • Wickets: 106
  • Bowling Average: 45.07
  • Bowling Strike Rate: 55.54
  • Economy: 4.87

However, a change in batting positions worked wonders for Dilshan as it has for numerous batsmen before and after him. He would open the batting for the first time in 2008, where he scored a run-a-ball 50, guiding his team through an easy chase, after which there was no looking back for Mr Pallekele.

Dilshan Numbers as an Opening Batsman:

  • Innings: 176
  • Runs: 7367
  • Average: 46.04
  • Strike Rate: 89.08

When conversations arise about the finest openers to have played ODI, Dilshan’s name is seldom heard, however, he does have most of the boxes ticked.

  • Above 5k runs at an average above 45 with a healthy strike rate? Checked.
  • An Away record which resembles the above stats? Checked.
  • A World Cup record, where he scored 862 runs at an average of 63.92 with a strike of 93.22? Checked.

Along with these feats, Dilshan also has 106 ODI wickets to his name, along with being a terrific in-ring fielder, at times even donning the wicket-keeper gloves! An All-rounder in its truest essence.

Kumar Sangakkara (WK)

The face of 20th-century Sri Lankan Cricket, Kumar Sangakkara had a rather slow start to his ODI career.

  • Matches: 397
  • Runs: 13975
  • Average: 41.96
  • Strike Rate: 78.88
  • Catches/Stumpings: 383/99

In his first 10 years, Sangakkara scored nearly 8K runs with an average of 36 and a strike rate of 74.7. For context, his fellow mate Mahela Jayawardene (who we would talk about later) had scored 8.5k runs with a similar record up until then. However, it was in the 2010s where he really picked up pace.

6K runs at an average of 53 with a strike rate of 84.7. Only AB De Villiers was able to completely outmatch him in this period. Sangakkara also preserved his best for the grandest stage. He is the 3rd highest run-getter in the world cup and became the only batsman to score 4 consecutive ODI centuries in the 2015 World Cup.

Since he also has the highest amount of ODI dismissals, Sanga would also don the keeping gloves.

Aravinda De Silva

Sri Lankan cricket’s first superstar, MadMax Aravinda was a trailblazer for his era. He made his international debut at the age of 18 and due to the lack of quality batsmen in the country, De Silva straightaway became a regular starter for his international side, even though he wasn’t yet ready to face the sweet chin music sung by bowlers of the time, such as Ambrose, Akram, Waqar and many more.

  • Matches: 308
  • Runs: 9284
  • Average: 34.90
  • Strike Rate: 81.13

Aravinda was one of the first Asian batsmen to master the pull shot, which allowed him to score runs at a brilliant rate.

For context, according to Z-factor Aravinda’s career strike rate when adjusted to 2010’s stands at 95.66!
To know about the Z-factor, refer to this article “Where Does Rohit Sharma Rank among the ODI Openers of All-Time
Moreover, De Silva is Sri Lanka’s greatest big-match player.
In 24 tournament finals, Aravinda scored 930 runs at an average of 44.28 with a strike of 88.06!
Although De Silva makes it into the side as a pure batsman, he also has 106 ODI wickets to his name, in fact, Sangakkara referred to Aravinda as Sri Lanka’s 2nd greatest off-spinner!

Arjuna Ranatunga (C)

Arjuna Ranatunga is one such player whose legacy as a captain overshadows his own legacy as a batsman/bowler. Though one should not undermine the footprints Ranatunga left behind as a batsman.

  • Matches: 269
  • Runs: 7456
  • Average: 35.84
  • Strike Rate: 77.90

Ranatunga has the highest aggregate of runs scored at number 5 in ODIs. Yet the most amazing statistic with regard to his batting is his performance in multi-team tournaments.

Ranatunga’s performance across the ODI World Cup, Champions Trophy and Asia Cup
Runs: 1804
Average: 51.54
Strike Rate 81.84

Ranatunga is the second youngest debutant ever for Sri Lanka in ODIs, playing his first match at the age of 18.

He would be eventually handed down the captaincy reigns in 1988, at a time when Sri Lanka was still novices on the international stage. For context, Ranatunga captained Sri Lanka for the first time(ODIs) on 29th October 1988. Till then, Sri Lanka’s win percentage in the format stood at 18.39%.

Under Ranatunga, this figure rose up to 46.13%! Such was the impact of Ranatunga as a captain.

Angelo Matthews

The only non-retired member of this XI, Angelo also happens to be the only batsman playing out of position. The other alternative at this position was Russell Arnold, however a strike rate of 75 at 6 worked against Arnold. Coupled with the fact Matthews was brilliant at 5 and also provided an extra bowling option, we decided to slot him at 6.

  • Matches: 221
  • Runs: 5865
  • Batting Average: 41.01
  • Batting Strike Rate: 83.09
  • Wickets: 120
  • Bowling Average: 33.35
  • Bowling Strike Rate: 43.20
  • Economy: 4.62

Angelo has the 6th best net average in ODIs (min. 100 wickets) yet is rarely viewed as an all-rounder at present.
He has been also unlucky to have his rise imbricate with Sri Lanka’s descent, which reflects upon the fact that 5 out of his 7 90+ scores have come on behalf of the losing side, which includes 3 hundreds.

This Sri Lankan Giant is currently in his last lap, with the upcoming World Cup being possibly his last hurrah!

Thisara Perera

The only Sri Lankan with a career strike rate in excess of 100, Thisara will play the finisher’s role. Nicknamed Panda by fellow Brisbane Heat teammate George Bailey, Perera had the 14th-best strike in the overs 41-50 in the years where he actively played ODIs (min. 1000 runs).

Unfortunately, Perera struggled throughout his career to balance both his batting and bowling “simultaneously”.

  • Matches: 166
  • Runs: 2338
  • Batting Average: 19.98
  • Batting Strike Rate: 112.08
  • Wickets: 175
  • Bowling Average: 32.8
  • Bowling Strike Rate: 33.61
  • Economy: 5.86

He started off as an express pace bowler, picking up his first 69 wickets at an average of 24.8 however his batting average in this period stood at 16.79.

A major strain injury in 2012 meant he could no longer bowl at an excess of 140 kph consistently. His batting average improved in the subsequent years, shooting up to 21, however, his bowling by then had degraded massively, his bowling average in this period being close to 38.

One can only imagine how lethal Thisara would have been if his batting and bowling prime had occurred concomitantly.

Chaminda Vaas

The man with the most wickets in a single ODI match, Warnakulasuriya Patabendige Ushantha Joseph Chaminda Vaas was a man of steel, having one of the highest impacts towards his respective team, among all Pacers to have played ODIs.

For the first half of his career, Vaas picked up 185 scalps. 2nd most wickets for a Sri Lankan pacer in this period was 75 scalps by G Wickramasinghe, and only SC De Silva and Nuwan Zoysa had an average under 30.

  • Matches: 322
  • Wickets: 400
  • Average: 27.53
  • Economy: 4.18
  • Strike Rate: 39.4

Moreover, between his debut and last match, Vaas played the 8th most ODIs in the world and the 2nd most ODIs amongst Pacers.

This shows how important Vaas’s role was to his national side and how he had to maintain his fitness throughout his 15-year career to ensure Sri Lanka could extract whatever cricket there was inside him.

Chaminda shined on the bigger stages, as his record in ICC events ( World Cup and Champions trophy) shows:

  • Matches: 47
  • Wickets: 67
  • Average: 22.89
  • Economy: 3.96
  • Strike Rate: 34.6

Lasith Malinga

More known for the shorter limited-over format, Malinga had a long ODI career, having the 9th most ODI wickets.

Malinga had a great start to his ODI career, standing at a comfortable position in his career after the year 2007.

With 67 wickets @24.67 and a brilliant 2007 World Cup, Malinga was poised to lead the Sri Lankan pacer battery, considering Vaas was at the twilight of his career. However, his bowling action meant an all-format career was going to be very difficult for Lasith, and that did show in his performances over the next couple of years.

  • Matches: 226
  • Wickets: 338
  • Average: 28.88
  • Economy: 5.35
  • Strike Rate: 32.36

Malinga finally took the decision to cut short his test career and it was one of the best decisions of his life. Malinga regained his form in the ODI format and simultaneously had one of the greatest T20 bowling primes.

Malinga could bowl during all 3 phases of the game, but it was the death overs where his skills were best used. Malinga picked up 125 wickets at an economy rate of 6.60 between the overs 40-50. No one has picked up more wickets during this phase since Jan 1 2002, and the 23rd best economy rate since Jan 1 2002.

Much like his predecessor, Malinga was brilliant when it came to 5-team+ tournaments.

Record as below:
Wickets: 101
Average: 24.19
Economy: 5.01
Strike Rate: 27.3

Muttiah Muralitharan

The greatest spin bowler of the format (and by quite a margin) and arguably the greatest bowler of the format, Murali had ticked most of the boxes in his resume by the time he retired. The big spot on it is probably his mediocre record against the two best batting sides of his career, India and Australia.

Other than that Murali did everything that was possible to be done for the emerald nation. Battling numerous allegations against his bowling action, some of which have been sustained even after his career, Murali’s consistency and longevity are inarguably the biggest metrics, where he is a notch above the rest of the bowlers.

  • Matches: 350
  • Wickets: 534
  • Average: 23.08
  • Economy: 3.93
  • Strike Rate: 35.23

Out of Murali’s 19 years in the One Day International Circuit, only 5 of those years were when his bowling average was above 30 (3 of them being the first 3 years of his career).

Murali also has the joint highest wickets across the World Cup and Champions Trophy, averaging under 20.

Ajantha Mendis

The first mystery bowler of the T20 era, Mendis took the world by storm after his 6fer in the 08 Asia Cup final.

The developer of the carrom ball, Mendis was running through the top batting sides of the time, much like how men from that part of the world go through the Parippu.

The fastest to 50 ODI wickets, Mendis was christened as the “next Muttiah”. However, with the current age of technology, very seldom do mystery spinners possess a long shelf-life, and that was the case with Mendis.

  • Matches: 87
  • Wickets: 152
  • Average: 21.87
  • Economy: 4.80
  • Strike Rate: 27.33

It was the Indians first, spearheaded by Virendra Sehwag, who took apart Ajantha, followed by their neighbours, Pakistan. Soon Ajantha seemed like an open book in front of the whole world. He would still go on to have a great T20 career, but his charm in the longer formats was lost, once and for all.

Nearly one-third of his 152 wickets came in his first year itself. He would play his last ODI at the age of 30. However, he did just enough to make it into our XI. The difference between the 2nd and 3rd greatest Sri Lankan Spinner is still considerably large one.

Honourable mentions

●Mahela Jayawardene
The 6th highest run scorer of all-time, Mahela was Sri Lanka’s go-to man at moments of pressure with 2 centuries in world cup knockout matches. Mahela’s biggest downside was his inability to replicate his stellar performances away from home, across formats.

Mahela’s away ODI record:
Runs: 4311
Average: 29.73
Strike Rate: 79.21

It’s unfortunate Mahela misses out in this XI, however, the middle order is stacked over here, with all of the middle-order batsmen in the above XI providing help in other departments too.

●Nuwan Kulasekara
Former no. 1 ODI ranked bowler, Kulasekara always struggled for consistency in his career, never being able to repeat the heights he achieved in 2009.

If he was to take anyone’s spot, it was Ajantha’s. Mendis in his prime had dominated top ODI teams of his time such as South Africa, India etc. However Kulasekara does not own such feats in his resume, and thus we have decided to give Mendis the nod ahead of Nuwan.

In fact, his fellow teammates, Dilhara Fernando and Farveez Mahroof had very good arguments in their favour to make it into the starting XI, however, Ajantha’s performance at his peak edged him in front of this pace trio.

So, Sri Lanka All Time ODI XI is

  1. Sanath Jayasuriya
  2. Tillakaratne Dilshan
  3. Kumar Sangakkara (WK)
  4. Aravinda De Silva
  5. Arjuna Ranatunga (C)
  6. Angelo Mathews
  7. Thisara Perera
  8. Chaminda Vaas
  9. Lasith Malinga
  10. Muttiah Muralitharan
  11. Ajantha Mendis

Extras: Mahela Jayawardene, Nuwan Kulasekara, Dilhara Fernando, Farveez Mahroof

Sidharth Basu
Sidharth Basu
An avid follower of the game since 2011, I am a student by profession. Generally follow the Indian cricket team and the IPL and have an admiration for the past cricketing greats

1 Comment

  1. We can replace Thisara Perera with Mahela Jayawardene
    Four permanent bowlers

    Vaas murali mendia malinga

    2 allrounder Mathews JAYSURIYA

    3 part time bowlers
    Dilshan De silva Ranatunga

    Thisara Perera not needed
    If needed batting explosion then Mendis must be out

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