The upcoming ICC Champions Trophy 2017, which will be hosted in England and Wales from June 1, is the second most prestigious 50-over tournament after the World Cup. With each day passing by, the intensity is on a rise and teams are gearing up hard for the massive battle. Sri Lanka, who have shared the title once with India in 2002, are placed in Group B alongside India, South Africa and Pakistan.
Sri Lanka’s chances of claiming the title are bleak as they have had a tough time in this format in the recent times and the squad hardly inspires confidence against the big guns in the coveted tournament. They are no more the kind of a team, which they had in 2007 and 2011 World Cups, where they made it to the finals of both the tournaments. In the recent times, Sri Lanka’s cricketing fortunes have oscillated between mediocrity and occasional spark of brilliance. They have some key players in the line-up but lack some spice and flavour in it.
By looking at the squad, one can easily say that they have some firepower in batting but their bowling looks vulnerable. Since the 2015 World Cup, Sri Lanka have played nine ODI series and have won three and drew a solitary one against Bangladesh. Their victories came against Ireland, West Indies and a victory in try-nation series against Zimbabwe and West Indies. They have failed to beat a single top team in an ODI series since the World Cup, which is not a good indication.
One can expect the conditions in England and Wales to be heavily tilted in the favour of batsmen. Though English conditions are widely reckoned for favouring the fast bowlers but the venues for the tournament have a reputation of being flat. The matches will be played at the Kennington Oval, Sophia Gardens and Edgbaston. All are known to assist the batsmen while Sophia Gardens is a batting paradise. By introspecting this, one thing is quite evident, the team with massive firepower in their batting will have an edge but at the same time need a decent bowling attack contain the opposition.
A decent batting line-up
Sri Lanka’s batting hails of Upul Tharanga, Niroshan Dickwella, Kusal Perera, Kusal Mendis, Chamara Kapugedara, Angelo Mathews, Asela Gunaratne and Thisara Perera. A lot of Sri Lanka’s success will highly depend on how Tharanga, Mathews Thisara fares. Tharanga bats at the top and a solid start is what Sri Lanka will be expecting from the experience southpaw. Nirsohan Dickwella, on the other hand, has looked impressive at the top and the opening pair of Tharanga and Dickwella can build a solid platform at the top. Kusal Mendis at three will form a decent looking top-order for Sri Lanka. Dinesh Chandimal’s experience in the middle-order will provide stability while the likes of Asela Gunaratne, Angelo Mathews and Thisara Perera can inflict damage on the opposition.
Overall, Sri Lanka’s batting is still decent enough to score runs in English conditions but their weakness lies in the bowling department.
The bowling attack isn’t lethal enough
Their pace battery consists of Lasith Malinga, Suranga Lakmal, Nuwan Kulasekara, Nuwan Pradeep, Thisara Perera and Gunaratne. Their strike bowlers are undoubtedly Lasith Malinga and Nuwan Kulasekara. The problem is both the bowlers seem to be worn out and past their prime. Making struggled in the Indian Premier League and went for runs, which was an oddity few years back. Kulasekara although enjoyed success in the final ODI against Bangladesh but has done nothing great with the ball in the recent times.
Lakmal can be very effective with the new ball but can leak runs in death overs while Perera can be a handy bowler but not a frontline one by far. Angelo Mathews can provide few economical overs in the middle while Nuwan Pradeep has looked good but struggled to pick wickets in this format. In Sandakan and Prasanna, Sri Lanka have an impressive spin attack but English conditions will rarely have anything to offer.
Fielding is not up to the mark
Sri Lankan batsmen will have a lot of work to be done if Sri Lanka are eyeing to put up a fight. They need to score runs heavily and cover up for the loopholes in their bowling against one of the strongest sides in the game. to add to their woes, their fielding seems to be rather ordinary. They are certainly one of the weakest fielding sides in the tournament, which will again be crucial. The fielding standards have gone up massively and have played a key role behind a team’s success.
The chances are less, but they should not stop dreaming big
Sri Lanka will play their matches against India, Pakistan and South Africa. Barring Pakistan, they will certainly have to bring their best game out and punch above their weight to create any upset against South Africa and India. Both these oppositions are one of the heavyweights going into the tournament. Their inaugural game against South Africa will be a true test of them as a team followed by the tough contest against India. Pakistan have also been facing similar issues like Sri Lanka and their final contest of the group stage against them will be an evenly-balanced one. For the first two games, one can easily predict the winner as Sri Lanka stand a small chance of creating an upset.
Despite being one of the weakest sides in the Group, Sri Lanka can take this as a challenge and try to bring their best. At the end of the day, cricket is all about performance on the field and not few names on paper. Sri Lanka will play their opening game against South Arica on June 3 at Kennington Oval.