Champions in 1996. Runners-up in 2007 and 2011. Semi-final exit in 2003.

Sri Lanka might have a lucrative World Cup record, but at present, a dark cloud is hovering over their direct qualification for the 2019 World Cup in England, primarily due to their shocking 2-3 home series defeat against Zimbabwe last month and the 1-1 drawn ODI series against Bangladesh earlier this year. In last four months, Sri Lankan ODI side has lost as many as 10 rating points, resulting in this unprecedented circumstance.

In a controversial decision, the International Cricket Council (ICC) has decided to reduce the number of participating teams from 14 to 10 for the next World Cup, which will be the 12th edition of this prestigious event. According to the new qualification rules, seven top-ranked ODI teams in the ICC rankings on September 30, 2017, along with the host nation England, will directly qualify for the 2019 tournament.

However, apart from these eight sides the other four teams with a Test status (Considering Ireland and Afghanistan – the latest additions to the elite group of Test playing countries) along with the top four sides from the ICC World Cricket League Championship and top two sides from the ICC World Cricket League will feature in a qualifying tournament in Zimbabwe next year. The top two teams from this event will get to play in the World Cup 2019.

Due to this extraordinary scenario, the 2019 World Cup will be the first ever tournament of its kind, which will not involve all the Test playing nations.

Well, if one looks at the present scenario, then it can be easily found that in all likelihood, between Sri Lanka and West Indies — two former champions — only one team will earn the privilege of direct qualification.

Yes, we are talking about the World Cup of cricket, not the football one!

Going into the five-match ODI series against India, the Lankans are currently placed at No. 8 in the ICC rankings with 88 points, 10 points ahead of their nearest rivals West Indies. But the Caribbean boys will play a one-off ODI against Ireland and five ODIs against England before the cut-off date of September 30.

A clean sweep will take West Indies to 88 points, while Sri Lanka’s points will come down to 86 if they lose 5-0 against the series against India, which is their final assignment in this format before the cut-off date.

ICC’s ranking predictor says, even a 4-1 defeat will see the Lankans fall behind the West Indies, provided the Caribbean boys win all their matches in the United Kingdom. Sri Lanka will have to win at least two matches against India to secure direct qualification to the 2019 World Cup, because in that case they will finish with 90 points and it cannot be overhauled by any bottom ranked team within the stipulated time-frame.

However, if the Windies lose to Ireland or face defeat in any of the five ODIs against England, then Sri Lanka will automatically qualify, irrespective the result of the India series.

On, either way, a former world champion will have to battle it out in the qualifying event in Zimbabwe to earn the rights to play the next World Cup.

Possible Scenarios:

India win 5-0: India 117 points; Sri Lanka finish with 86 points.

India win 4-1: India 115 points, Sri Lanka finish with 88 points.

India win 3-2: India 113 points, Sri Lanka finish with 90 points and secure direct qualification.

Sri Lanka win 3-2: India 111 points, Sri Lanka finish with 91 points and secure direct qualification.

Sri Lanka win 4-1: India 109 points, Sri Lanka finish with 93 points and secure direct qualification.

Sri Lanka win 5-0: India 106 points, Sri Lanka finish with 94 points and secure direct qualification.

Meanwhile, Sri Lankan skipper Upul Tharanga knows his team will be a heavy underdog in the series but he wants to take heart from the Champions Trophy game when out of nowhere they managed to surprise the Indians.

“This [Direct qualification] will be more important as we are ranked eighth. Playing against India we know they are a very good side. They have been very consistent in the last three-four years. We have the confidence having beaten them in the Champions Trophy. No one thought that we will beat them.”

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