Thursday, February 2, 2023

India series chance for Sri Lanka to solve some puzzles

Under Chris Silverwood, the Sri Lankan team made many improvements in 2021 and while many applaud the victory in Asia Cup, a lot of people have ignored how well the team played against Australia.Not only did they win the ODI series but drew the Tests too. Given the hiding the Aussies are giving South Africa currently, it gives us a reminder how special that win in Galle was. A bit more ruthlessness would have given Sri Lanka a 2-0 series win.

Silverwood is a methodical coach and the biggest improvement the team has made under his charge is that fast bowlers are coming up with match winning performances.Winning the T-20 series against India that gets underway on Tuesday in Bombay obviously will be the priority of the team, but the bigger picture is next year’s T-20 World Cup in USA and Caribbean.

The national cricket team’s poor standing in T-20 cricket saw them playing back-to-back qualifying tournaments ahead of the last two T-20 World Cups but recent improvements in performance saw them qualifying automatically for the 2024 event.In leg-spinner Wanindu Hasaranga the team has a world class player and his performance will be key for Sri Lanka’s success. Maheesh Theekshana is an important member of the attack while it remains to be seen how the selectors will handle young Dunith Wellalage having surprised many by leaving him out of the World Cup squad.

Apart from his tidy left-arm spin, Wellalage is handy with the bat as he proved against Afghanistan with a cameo during the record run chase at Pallekele. He will turn 20 next week.Kasun Rajitha emerged as the leader of the attack in the absence of Dushmantha Chameera. Left-arm quick Dilshan Madushanka will be the player to watch during the series.

Sri Lanka have a settled top order in Kusal Mendis and Pathum Nissanka, who have given the team some good starts last year. With Avishka Fernando returning to the side having missed the entire 2022 due to knee surgery, there’s even more stability in the top three. The middle order though remains a concern and the onus is on Dasun Shanaka, Charith Asalanka, Bhanuka Rajapaksa and Dhananjahya de Silva to turn things around.

The second and third T-20s will be played in Pune and Rajkot. The team will move to eastern part of India with Guwahati and Calcutta hosting the first two ODIs and the southern city of Trivandrum hosting the final game.

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