ICC T20 WORLD CUP 2021
Sri Lanka should have things easy in their tournament opener of the seventh edition of the ICC T20 World Cup 2021 against lesser known Namibia from Group A tomorrow October 18 at the Sayed Cricket Stadium in Abu Dhabi (7.30 p.m.). The showpiece event of cricket’s slap bang short version unfolds on October 17 in Muscat, Oman with Oman taking on Papua New Guinea.
Sri Lanka, the former world champions of 2014, led by the hard hitting all-rounder Dasun Shanaka, who for the first time in the history of the tournament find themselves having to qualify to make it to the super stage, on paper should have a cakewalk against the Namibians who do not have big credentials having been an Associate Member of the ICC since 1992 and part of its High Performance Program in 2007, who have won recognition to vie in the qualifier having failed in six previous shies. They have beaten lesser known opposition such as Bermuda, Ghana, Kenya, Oman, Papua New Guinea, Scotland, Singapore, UAE, Uganda and the UAE The side’s highest team total is 240 for 3 versus Botswana in 2019 and highest scorer is Gerhard Erasmus with 522 runs averaging 34.80, and best individual bowling figures of 6 for 24 by Jan Frylinck 6/24 in 2021.
Drawn in Group A alongside Ireland, Netherlands and Namibia, the qualifying stage will be crucial to Sri Lanka’s cup hopes with the top two teams from Groups A and B respectively joining the elite eight – reigning world champions the West Indies, England, India, South Africa, Australia, New Zealand, Pakistan and Afghanistan in the super play off. Overly, Dasun Shanaka’s charges are not short of skill and flair, but how they come out of a batting flux that has required individual brilliance rather than collectivity to pull the side through in qualifying to the Super 12. This is manifested by the lower order and relatively new to the scene Chamika Karunaratne has had to shoulder the responsibility of pulling the side out of the rut regularly. The reality as reasoned by Head Coach, Mick Arthur is that success will depend on the batting clicking to Sri Lanka’s world cup hopes. The frontline batsmen face the challenge of pulling up their socks to mounting big totals to compensate for a not so wholesome bowling attack mainly fronted by leg pinner Wanindu Hasaranga who has been averaging 10.76 with ball in T20s this year and was Player of the Series versus India in the 2-1 home series triumph. It has taken him to top No,2 bowler in the ICC T20 top bowler rankings and much will depend on how he performs on the big world cup stage. A lamentable factor has been a sudden form rut that has taken away the gloss that made him a talk of the town No. 8 pinch hitter that saw Hasaranga promoted two slots up, but since has failed to deliver.
BATSMEN THE KEY
The small victory margins in the three run up warm-up matches against Oman, Bangladesh and Papua New Guinea has certainly underlined the need for that gelling blending of all-round class. This is further reflected by the Lankan camp experimenting for a fixed line-up. If getting through the initial qualifying hurdle is a milestone given the depth and potential of some of the lesser known teams that have emerged to be forces to be reckoned with, the quality of the top eight teams is certainly testing n where iceberg stuff. The frontline batsman in form has mainly been Avishka Fernando who faces the challenge of translating his ODI form to the T20 big show in a situation where playmaker Kusal Janith Perera is recuperating from injury. Who will open the batting still looks unsettled. While the rising demand is for Dinesh Chandimal to get a spring in his step to meeting the testing demands of T20 quick run making, Pathum Nissanka, who had long failed to come to terms in one-day run making, has come alive with a couple of knocks including 74 in the warm-ups. Although young Charith Asalanka came a cropper in the warm ups in the pivotal No.3 slot, he has done enough to win the selectors and captain’s faith to man the job. In fact, it took the left-hander some time to come to terms and deliver it big against the South Africans back home to take the Man of the Series award following a lean start in Bangladesh and England. The manner of his run fronting has certainly stood Asalanka has a batsman with the right temperament for any situation. Dhananjaya de Silva continues to be a lynchpin to the side for his consistency since his arrival in 2017 culminating in winning selector faith to shoulder the vice captaincy.
NO.1 TEAM ENGLAND FAVOURITES
The tournament proper sees England, rated as the current No.1 T20 team in the insulation of a super in depth all-round side skippered by Eoin Morgan rated as the tournament favourites while Virat Kohli’s Indians too possess the all-round fire power to go the distance. Two time winners reigning Champions the West Indies, who first won the championship in 2012 defeating Sri Lanka in the final by 36 runs in Sri Lanka, will be seeking a record third title. Skippered by Kieron Pollard, the West Indies basks in the reputation as possibly the most hard hitting side in T20 cricket driven by the skipper and Andre Russel while Evin Lewis possesses the record for the fastest 100 T20 sixes with veteran Chris Gayle in the ranks to boot. The batting is well supplemented by a formidable pace-spin attack and the West Indies, in a reincarnation of its former glory days, does certainly carry the fire power to go for a third title.
As much are the South Africans who have enjoyed a good year skippered by Temba Bavuma with a chance of touching world cup glory for the first time on the back of an in depth all-round side while Australia, despite not having many top T20 players of the past, is a threatening force for the big spoils driven by pinch hitting skipper Aaron Finch who is expected to pass an injury fitness test.
For the record, the inaugural T20 world cup 2007 staged in South Africa was won by India followed by Pakistan in 2000 in England. England won it in 2010 in the West Indies and the West Indies were the winners in 2012 staged in Sri Lanka while Sri Lanka triumphed in 2014 defeating India by 6 wickets in Bangladesh while the reigning champions the West Indies won it in 2016 defeating England by 4 wickets in India.
SRI LANKA SQUAD:
Dasun Shanaka (captain), Kusal Janith Perera, Dinesh Chandimal, Dhananjaya De Silva, Pathum Nissanka, Charith Asalanka, Avishka Fernando, Bhanuka Rajapaksa, Chamika Karunaratne, Wanindu Hasaranga, Dushmantha Chameera, Lahiru Kumara, Maheesh Theekshana, Akila Dananjaya, Binura Fernando.
Gerhard Erasmus (c), Stephen Baard, Karl Birkenstock. Michau du Preez, Jan Frylinck, Zane Green, Nicol Lofie-Eaton, Bernard Scholtz, Ben Shikongo, JJ Smit, Ruben Trumpelmann, Michael van Lingen, David Wiese, Craig Williams, Picky Ya France