We all know Sri Lanka has come into this edition of ICC Champions Trophy as a clear underdog. Currently ranked seventh ODI outfit in the world, Angelo Mathew’s boys do not have much of a backing, when it comes to reaching the final four stage of the tournament, especially from their group, which has much stronger teams like India and South Africa. The heavy defeat against the Proteas also did not help their cause and it has made the match against India almost a knock-out fixture for the Lankans.
However, if you consider Mathew’s words then you have to believe that his team is in a nothing-to-lose-situation and the boys are ready to play pressure cricket.
“I mean, as I said, you know, at the very first press conference, we are happy to walk in as the underdogs. I mean, no one really expects us to win the Championship, which takes a lot of pressure out of the guys.
“I mean, you’ve got to deal with the pressures. We always have pressures when we play as players. You’ve just got to deal with it and be as a team. Yes, we are in the rebuilding phases for the past one or two years. I mean, yes, we’ve had so many greats and they’ve retired. We are slowly rebuilding, but surely, we will come up with a good performance,” the Sri Lankan captain said in his pre-match media interaction.
Meanwhile, if one sees the record of Sri Lanka in ICC events in recent years, they have made it to six semi-finals, between 2009 and 2014 and played five finals between 2007 and 2014. But this time, there is clear lack of confidence in Sri Lankan cricket fraternity.
Let’s try and find out the reason behind this.
Following the retirements of the legends like Kumar Sangakkara and Mahela Jayawardene, this contemporary Sri Lankan team does not have the batting firepower, which it used to have. Apart from Mathews, Dinesh Chandimal and Chamara Kapugedera there is a serious lack of experience. In bowling, the pacers like Lasith Malinga, Suranga Lakmal and Thisara Perera are well past their prime. Besides, unlike their golden period, this team does not have a world-class spinner, who can have a grip on the opposition batsmen, even in these non-spinning conditions.
Since the 2015 World Cup, the islanders have won only three out of their nine One-Day Internationals (ODI) series. In fact, the three triumphs have come against West Indies, Ireland and in the tri-series in Zimbabwe, involving the hosts and the depleted Windies. Before coming into this Champions Trophy, Sri Lanka played a full series against Bangladesh at home and they could not achieve a series victory in all three formats.
In T20 format, recently they have registered away series wins over Australia and South Africa, but Sri Lanka have failed to carry that momentum in 50-over cricket.
So, is their rebuilding phase taking more time than usual?
Well, the skipper does not think so.
“It’s a very hard question to answer. Yeah, I mean, it only comes with experience, and the guys are learning every single day. If you look at most of the guys, they haven’t played a lot of international cricket. The more you play, the more you learn, and we’ve learned right throughout our careers.
“But it’s just that we’ve got to keep learning every single day, and everyone has to step up with their roles because we can’t just expect things to fall in line. We’ve got to make it happen, and we’ve got to make it happen soon,” he mentioned.
If we look at the current firepower of the top four Asian teams, the difference in quality between India and other three sides are crystal clear. However, to keep the supremacy of sub-continental cricket alive, we need teams like Sri Lanka and Pakistan to buckle up. Hope Mathew’s boys will show signs of that on Thursday’s fixture against their highly skilled neighbours.