“Sri Lanka does have the potential, all they need to do is step up and deliver on a consistent basis”
If one has to name the underdogs going into the Asia Cup, it would most probably be Sri Lanka. In saying so, one cannot afford to underestimate this rebuilding side. They have come a long way now and sprung many surprises in the past, but consistency is what they seek the most. Their head coach Chandika Haturusingha has set some basic things right and the side is heading in the right direction. Sri Lanka lost their latest ODI series against South Africa but did well to win the last two games of the series. They have gained some momentum and one can expect them to carry this in the Asia Cup as well.
Sri Lanka suffered a huge blow when their key batsman Dinesh Chandimal was ruled out of the series due to his failure to recuperate an injury. Opener Niroshan Dickwella has been roped into the side as a replacement for the right-handed batsman. Dickwella looked in good touch against South Africa and his exclusion from the 16-man squad initially came as a surprise to many. To add to their woes, Akila Dananjaya has been ruled out of the first two games at least as he awaits the birth of his first child.
Sri Lanka have only won 10 out of last 39 ODIs they have played in the recent times, which speaks about their ineffectiveness in this format. One of the main reasons behind their dismal run has been the poor run of their top-order. To put things into perspective, Sri Lanka’s top three averages 31.86 in last 24 months, the numbers are even worse in last one year. In last 12 months, Sri Lanka have experimented with eight players in the top three in last 18 games, where they have garnered just 1259 runs at an awful average of 25.18. Things will get clearer when we compare these numbers with other teams, which will also give an idea how badly Sri Lanka have fared. In the table below let’s compare the teams battling in the Asia Cup and England.
Top-order (1-3) performances in last 24 months
In the table above, the difference is clearly evident. India and England are two red hot favourites for the upcoming World Cup and has been one of the consistent performers in the recent times. It doesn’t take any rocket science to figure out why? The top-orders of both the sides have breathed fire and the sides have heavily banked on them. Their top-orders have scored 12 and 13 hundred respectively and boast of a staggering average of 62.47 and 54.96.
Pakistan is widely reckoned for their intimidating bowling attack, which was also one of the key reasons behind their emphatic comeback in the ICC Champions Trophy last year. Their top-order has been equally impressive when it comes to batting, with an average of 57.44, one can only imagine how prolific they have been. Even Bangladesh’s top-order has done a way better job than Sri Lanka. The fact that the difference between their average is over 13 is astonishing, leave alone the comparison with England and India.
South Africa exploited Sri Lanka’s weakness brutally in the recently concluded series. In five games, Sri Lanka’s top three averaged just over 22. If Sri Lanka are eyeing to make an impact in the Asia cup, they will have to pull up on this front.
In every format, the top-order plays a pivotal role. The onus of wearing out the new ball and getting a good start is on them; they set the platform for a big total and steer their side to command. A team’s fortune depends highly on the way their top-order performs. One cannot afford to have a vulnerable top three in this format. For instance, India arguably have the best top three in the world. The likes of Rohit Sharma, Shikhar Dhawan and Virat Kohli render batting a joy to behold.
Sri Lanka does have the potential, all they need to do is step up and deliver on a consistent basis. Almost every side in the tournament have a deadly bowling attack, especially India and Pakistan, which makes the role of top-orders crucial. Will Sri Lanka’s top-order revive their fortunes or will this continue to haunt them in the Asia Cup? It will be interesting to see how they fare, there is absolutely no reason why they can’t do well, but will they are the big question.