After missing out on the direct qualification for the World Cup, Sri Lanka dominated the qualifiers and confirmed that they weren’t missing the mega event happening in India. After getting smashed by India and New Zealand at the start of this year, they went to a song to win 13 out of 13 matches (India broke their streak in their second Super 4 game) consecutively and reached the finals of the Asia Cup defeating Pakistan but were blown away by India in the finals.
Dasun Shanaka (c), Kusal Mendis, Kusal Perera, Pathum Nissanka, Dimuth Karunaratne, Sadeera Samarawickrama, Charith Asalanka, Dhananjaya De Silva, Dushan Hemantha, Maheesh Theekshana, Dunith Wellalage, Kasun Rajitha, Matheesha Pathirana, Lahiru Kumara and Dilshan Madushanka.
Reserves: Chamika Karunaratne.
After playing the Asia Cup without their main bowling lineup, Sri Lanka is now set to be back with their main bowling guns. Maheesh Theekshana, Lahiru Kumara and Dilshan Madushanka are fit and back. Wanindu Hasaranga and Dushmantha Chameera are not included in the squad citing their injuries. To fill their boots Sri Lanka have included Dushan Hemantha and Kasun Rajitha in the squad.
Sri Lanka has decided to go with the same batting lineup that they played in the World Cup Qualifiers and the recently concluded Asia Cup. They also haven’t included any extra batter apart from their 3 openers in their main 15 or even in the reserves.
Spin bowling has always been Sri Lanka’s paradise. Despite the injury of Hasaranga, they won’t be much worried as they have found a gem Dunith Wellalage who was phenomenal in the Asia Cup acquiring 10 wickets at an average of 17.90 including a fifer against India. He has been a bully of big boys and got rid of many global superstars like Virat Kohli, David Warner, and many more. Maheesh Theekshana will be a go-through bowler for the captain. This year he has 31 scalps to his name.
Stabled and Long Batting Lineup
Sri Lanka has almost been playing the same lineup since the Afghanistan series and every player in the batting knows his role and bats according to that. Starting with Pathum Nissanka and going all the way long till No.8 Dunith Wellalage. Maheesh Theekshana has also shown resilience and helped Sri Lanka post competitive totals whenever there’s a collapse.
Kusal Mendis will hold the key for the batting lineup even though he averages just 33.28 this year but on his given day he can demolish the opponents. Sadeera Samarawickrama will also be a key player for them. Both Mendis and Sadeera’s performances will decide whether it’s make or break for Sri Lanka.
The form of Dasun Shanaka and Dhananjaya de Silva has been a menace for Sri Lanka. Both players aren’t able to replicate their T20I and Tests performances in the ODI format. DDS batting at No.6 strikes at a rate of 73.46 while Dasun Shanaka batting at No.7 strikes at a rate of 84.78. Their failures are the main cause of Sri Lanka reaching 300+ in only 2 of the last 14 outings.
Considering the current situation of availability, Sri Lanka doesn’t have a lethal 2nd new ball bowler. Dasun Shanaka and Maheesh Theekshana have not been as effective as the 2nd new ball bowler. They have Shanaka as their 3rd pacer which till now hasn’t backfired as he has been picking wickets at regular intervals, but on flat tracks, it would be interesting to see how Shanaka uses himself and the bowlers.
Dasun Shanaka has been spot on by his captaincy and decision-making ability and has led the team brilliantly, but his form is a concern for the Sri Lankan team. In 2023, he averages just 16.13 and has scored just 258 runs in 18 innings despite scoring an unbeaten 108 against India in January.
His ODI batting form has been terrible since his captaincy tenure began. Dasun averages 12.04 in wins as a captain and in lost matches, he averages 29.84. He has been a golden arm for the Sri Lankan team breaking the partnerships and making the job easier for the main bowlers. He has taken 13 wickets this year, the most by him in any year, but he underbowls himself and bowls DDS more. Shanaka has bowled just 74 overs in 22 matches he played this year. Being a captain, Shanaka needs to step up with both bowl and bat and set up an example for the Sri Lankan team.
Predicted Playing XI
- Pathum Nissanka
- Kusal Perera
- Kusal Mendis(wk)
- Sadeera Samarawickrama
- Charith Asalanka
- Dhananjaya De Silva
- Dasun Shanaka(c)
- Dunith Wellalage
- Maheesh Theekshana
- Lahiru Kumara
- Dilshan Madushanka
Considering the availability of players Sri Lanka would love to try some combinations to get better results:
- To get a lethal 5th bowling option, they can drop one of their openers and ask DDS to open who is a technically sound player and can play the new ball with ease. They can also try Shanaka to open the batting who is not in form and can slog the starting overs and give Sri Lanka a solid start.
- They can also drop DDS whose batting numbers are not justified by his style of play. Instead of DDS Sri Lanka can try a lethal 3rd pacer in the form of Kasun Rajitha or Matheesha Pathirana to strengthen their bowling lineup.
- Kusal Perera or Dimuth Karunaratne? Dimuth Karunaratne, a test player can cut off the fear of a new ball, but his strike rate is an issue. Both Nissanka and Karunaratne are in the same bracket of players. They both Strike approximately at 80.
Kusal Perera on the other side, an explosive opener can utilise the fielding limitations and give Sri Lanka a solid start, but on tough decks, he might not be that much effective.
So for tough decks, Sri Lanka can get the services of Dimuth Karunaratne to provide a solid start and hold the innings ahead. Kusal Perera can be tried on flat decks where he can play his shots and maintain the scoring rate from the start of the innings.
The Sri Lankan Lions will begin their campaign against South Africa in Delhi, then they will be travelling to Hyderabad for their second match. They will be playing 2 of their 9 matches in the Ekana Stadium which will assist their spinners the most and they will be hoping to win those 2 encounters.
The Sri Lankan Team will travel from North to South which can be a problem for them as they might face problems adapting to the conditions of two different regions.
The Sri Lankan Team will also play 2 matches in Delhi which also assist the spinners as seen in the IPL 2023.
Their toughest challenge would be against New Zealand and England in Bengaluru as the pitch assists batting so it would be interesting to see how Sri Lankan bowlers stop the heavy batting lineup of New Zealand and England. The intent of their batters will also be checked here.
Players to Watch Out For
The Sri Lankan captain has not been in his form since the World Cup qualifiers concluded earlier this year, but his form in India can’t be ignored. In the recently concluded T20I and ODI series against India, he was the leading scorer for Sri Lanka in both formats, scoring 124 runs in the T20I format and 121 runs in the ODI format.
Dasun Shanaka averages 60 with a Strike rate of 102 in Indian Pitches in the ODI format. Across all formats, he has scored 524 runs with a healthy average of 34.93 and with a magnificent strike rate of 126.57. In India, Dasun Shanaka has taken 15 wickets in 15 innings with a strike rate of 35.2 and an average of 28.13.
Sadeera Samarawickrama was considered to be a player who never reached his potential, but since his return to the ODI team, he has shown his potential and won matches for Sri Lanka. He was the second-highest scorer for Sri Lanka in the recently concluded Asia Cup, scoring 215 runs with a strike rate of 89.21. In the World Cup Qualifiers, he scored 218 runs with an average of 43.60 and a strike rate of 95.20.
Samarawickrama’s stats in India are not pleasing to the eyes as he averages just 13.30 in 13 innings he played across all formats, but his current form where he averages almost 40 this year in the ODI format is the stat Sri Lanka would be looking forward to. He will hold the key for middle overs for Sri Lanka alongside Mendis and Asalanka.
The 20-year-old Dunith Wellalage would be a key factor for the Sri Lankan team in the upcoming World Cup with his batting and bowling skills. We all are familiar with his skillset when he almost did a 1v11 performance against India in the Asia Cup taking a fifer and scoring 42*.
Wellalage would be a new aspect for the opponents as most of the team hasn’t played him and he could be a surprise package. Considering the injury of Hasaranga, Wellalage would hold the nod for Sri Lanka in the middle order alongside the other spinning options.
Wellalage’s batting is ignored, but he has made notable contributions in the opportunities he got while batting. While chasing 314 against Afghanistan in November the previous year, he played the role of second fiddle alongside Asalanka scoring an unbeaten 31 off 21 and an important last over six when 13 were required and made the job easier for Asalanka.
Sri Lanka has retained only 4 of their previous World Cup main 15 and has ignored the likes of experienced lads like Angelo Mathews and Dinesh Chandimal. A young and talented team will be carrying the hopes of the nation to do some wonders in the World Cup.