Sri Lanka announced their ICC World Cup 2023 squad on September 26. The Lankans, who are without Waning Hasaranga, will be led by Dasun Shanaka. The all-rounder needs to show more character as a leader after not being impressive enough individually of late. 1996 World Cup winners Sri Lanka have a decent unit on paper, but it’s the performance versus the bigger sides where they need to provide more depth and character. The batting also needs to fire, and consistency is what the Shanaka-led side would want to have more comfort in this regard. Lanka’s bowling has variety, but Hasaranga’s unavailability hurts the side,
One of the major questions Sri Lanka have is, can they show enough in the global tournament? Lanka were blown away by India in the Asia Cup final, and that was hurting. Before that, the Lankans did enjoy a run where they bowled out the opposition for 13 straight matches. SL also emerged champions in the ICC World Cup Qualifiers, being unscathed. So Shanaka will be telling his troops to Marshall themselves and build from these moments to stake a claim. SL began their campaign against South Africa on October 7.
A look at Sri Lanka’s 15-member ICC World Cup squad
Sri Lanka squad: Dasun Shanaka (captain), Kusal Mendis (vice-captain), Pathum Nissanka, Kusal Perera, Dimuth Karunaratne, Charith Asalanka, Dhananjaya De Silva, Dushan Hemantha, Sadeera Samarawickrama, Dunith Wellalage, Kasun Rajitha, Maheesh Theekshana, Matheesha Pathirana, Lahiru Kumara and Dilshan Madushanka.
Hasaranga’s miss a blow as Shanaka seeks solace
Hasaranga has been one of the best performers in white-ball cricket of late, marking his stamp. In 14 matches this year, the mystery spinner claimed 28 wickets at an average of 20.39. Overall, in 48 games, Hasaranga has 67 scalps. His absence will hurt the Lankans, given his credentials with the bat as well. Shanaka will now hope to seek solace and get the team to perform in the absence of key personnel. Hasaranga’s presence would have lifted the Lankans.
Strengths of the Sri Lanka cricket team
Pathum Nissanka and Kusal Mendis are Sri Lanka’s main options in batting. Mendis has clocked 3215 runs from 112 games. He has 25 fifties and two tons. In 2023, his tally reads 599 runs from 22 games. Mendis, at number three, would be massive for Lanka. He knows his responsibilities and will be yearning to produce knocks of substance. Meanwhile, Nissanka has to fire big-time opening the batting. He has mustered 1396 runs from 40 matches at 37.72. In 2023, his tally reads 819 runs from 20 games. He is the third-highest scorer this season after Shubman Gill and Asif Khan. Nissanka, with his neat stroke play, can set the tone for Lanka.
Sadeera is a valuable asset to have in the middle. He has shown his character with some fighting knocks in the Asia Cup. He is a clutch player, and his presence would help SL a lot. Sadeera needs to play without much pressure and use his reading of situations well. Dhananjaya de Silva is another player who is a warrior. He can lift the spirit of the side with some neat displays with bat and ball alike. In 19 matches, he has 379 runs this year. With the ball, he has claimed 44 scalps in total from 82 matches for SL.
The bowling will be dependent on Maheesh Theekshana, Matheesha Pathirana, and young Danish Wellalage. In 27 ODIs, Theekshana has 44 scalps at 23.45. His presence in the bowling power play will help SL. Meanwhile, Pathirana has burst well into the international stage. He has 15 scalps under his belt. Wellalage has 19 scalps from 15 games. He claimed a fifer versus India at the 2023 Asia Cup.
The Lankans look spirited and confident with this set of players mentioned.
Weaknesses of the Sri Lanka cricket team
Kusal Perera was absent for a long time and made a return at the Asia Cup. The experienced campaigner didn’t justify his selection. His form is a worry, and SL will still be backing him to open alongside Nissanka. Also, Dimuth Karunaratne was performing well before losing his way and being dropped for a couple of crucial games at the Asia Cup due to poor form. Opening the department of SL remains a worrying factor as both Perera and Karunaratne can be vulnerable.
SL’s middle order is an issue as well. We witnessed the same at the Asia Cup. Dhananjay remains the best bet, but the others need to rally around him. Players like Charith Asalanka and Sadeera have to deliver here if Lanka need some comfort. On the other hand, the form of skipper Shanaka is a worry. He needs to pick himself up and lead the side by example.
SL’s spin department without Hasaranga weakens big time. Lack of experience is a key factor here. The pace department has promise but doesn’t boast a complete package. Kasun Rajitha leads the attack, but his economy rate is a worry. A lot of pressure will be on Pathirana to set an example.
Author’s view: Sri Lanka will finish outside top 5
Sri Lanka will not be finishing in the top 5 (league stage) in the 10-team affair. The Lankans may have won the Qualifiers, but now the ball game is different. Sri Lanka are a side that will work hard and get some positive results along the way, but getting into the top four and winning the event will be extremely difficult. Shanaka has a tough job on offer, and his performance will be the key. Sri Lanka can, however, be party spoilers.
Players to watch out for
Pathum Nissanka will be Sri Lanka’s main character with the bat, having enjoyed a decent run this season. He is one of the two batters with 100-plus fours this year after Indian opener Gill. Nissanka will be aiming to step up and hand his side the desired starts.
Shanaka needs to play a captain’s knock with both bat and ball. Across 19 innings this year, he has 13 wickets at 30.38. The average needs sheer improvement. However, across 18 innings with the bat, Shanaka tallied 258 runs at 16.12. Another area where he needs to show his worth.
Sri Lanka cricket team World Cup schedule
In this 10-team tourney, all teams will play each other and the top four reach the semis. Here is Sri Lanka’s schedule.
South Africa vs Sri Lanka, October 7 (Arun Jaitley Stadium, Delhi) 2:00 PM
Pakistan vs Sri Lanka, October 10 (Rajiv Gandhi Stadium, Hyderabad) 2:00 PM
Australia vs Sri Lanka, October 16 (Ekana Cricket Stadium, Lucknow) 2:00 PM
Netherlands vs Sri Lanka, October 21 (Ekana Cricket Stadium, Lucknow) 10:30 AM
England vs Sri Lanka, October 26 (Chinnaswamy Stadium, Bengaluru) 2:00 PM
Afghanistan vs Sri Lanka, October 30 (MCA Stadium, Pune) 2:00 PM
India vs Sri Lanka, November 02 (Wankhede Stadium, Mumbai) 2:00 PM
Bangladesh vs Sri Lanka, November 6 (Arun Jaitley Stadium, Delhi) 2:00 PM
New Zealand vs Sri Lanka, November 9 (Chinnaswamy Stadium, Bengaluru) 2:00 PM