Sri Lanka – the iceberg challenge to World Cup
By Srian Obeyesekere
Akin to a ship going past a floating iceberg to the world cup, consistency will be the tall order bugged by top order batting failures while the same applies to the bowling department in the wake of three straight ODI defeats from being bowled out for 50 by India in the recent Asia Cup final to two warm up losses to Bangladesh and Afghanistan as Sri Lanka fronts the 13th edition of the ICC World Cup on Friday against tough South Africa at 2 p.m. in the fourth fixture of the showpiece in Indian terrain at New Delhi’s Arun Jaitley Stadium following the curtain raiser between defending champions England and New Zealand at the Narendra Modi Stadium, Ahemedabad today.
Indeed, the name of the game will be nothing short of maximising their game in planet earth’s greatest sporting spectacle that will pit the Lankans against the giants in the fold. Handicapped by injury layouts of some key performers and a skipper battling to regain form braving performance odds to the top teams in the fray will be the challenge at hand if Dasun Shanaka’s men are to go past that reality firing line by large to cricket’s biggest pot of gold of US44 million prize money to go with the trophy glitter. To emulate their 1995-96 world cup heroes of the Arjuna led team, this team finds itself in a showdown arena of perhaps a chain of top opposition in the tournament history from the past from reigning champions England, five times champions Australia to two times champs India buoyed in its own strong-arm backyard to a highly resurgent runners-up New Zealand and as much tuned up South Africa, both of whom are anting up red hot to laying hands on the mighty trophy that has eluded them. A forceful Pakistan, who have won it once remain an unpredictable quarter while two times winners, the West Indies from a once mighty nation that won the inaugural prudential trophy in 1975 and the next in 1979 in two successive splendours as well are on the edge to reclaiming past glory while last two entrants to the fold Bangladesh and Afghanistan are the dark horses. U
KUSAL MENDIS’ FORM HEARTENING
The current form of one drop batsman, Kusal Mendis has been a buoying factor to go with in the wake of his 87-ball unbeaten 158 against Afghanistan on Monday to Sri Lanka’s cup hopes and much will depend on the 28-year-old right-hander producing the magical explosive power hitting he is capable of towards that end.
Minus Wanindu Hasaranga, Sri Lanka’s spin attack of Maheesh Theekshana (eight wickets at 29, economy of 5.15 in the Asia Cup) and Dunith Wellalage (10 wickets at 18, economy of 4.26) in the Asia Cup was pleasing and reliance will be for consistency by the duo on Indian wickets.
Scoring at just 7.21 runs per over in the last 10 overs since the 2019 World Cup, higher only than Afghanistan in that time is a cause for concern the Lankan top order will have to bat out of the window if the former champions are to go the distance.
CHARITH ASALANKA 60 AVERAGE AGAINST SPIN
Charith Asalanka, the left-hander, who made his ODI debut in 2021, enjoying an average 60 against spin bowling and scored a century against Australia in Pallekele in 2022, could be crucial to Sri Lanka’s cup hopes if he produces the leverage to lift his team.
Hosts India are tipped 9/4 odds on favourites with England 10/3 Australia 9/2, Pakistan 7/1, South Africa 10/1 as well as New Zealand 10/1 will kick start the 2023 Cricket World Cup as bookmakers’ favourites with defending champions England not too far behind them. Get a lowdown of how the latest Cricket World Cup 2023 outright odds to win the title are looking in the passage below. Sri Lanka 45/1, Bangladesh 100/1, Afghanistan 100/1 and Netherlands 1000/1.
India goes out favourites on the strong home advantage and on the basis that one of the hosts have won each of the last three editions and the batting particularly strong in the middle overs, going at 5.76 runs per over since the last World Cup, second only to England (6.01). Since the last World Cup, India have played 66 matches, 10 more than any other team in this tournament with Sri Lanka the second-most games with 56. While super batsman Virat Kohli with 47 one-day international hundreds and three away from overtaking Sachin Tendulkar as the batter with the most hundreds in this format is regarded as India’s lynchpin, skipper Rohit Sharma oozes in a record-breaking five centuries at the 2019 World Cup, is as strong a frontrunner to India’s world cup hopes averaging 58 with a 100-strike rate.
BUT DEFENDING CHAMPS ENGLAND A POTENTIAL FORCE
However, defending champions England has the highest of all 10 teams competing in this tournament with 2019 cup hero Ben Stokes their crucial kingpin to deliver enjoying a lavish 84 per cent ODI catch success rate since the last World Cup and very much in the forefront reckoning to deliver with a flattering 13 not outs of England’s 34 one-day international run chases since 2015.
Defending champion England’s white ball cricket fortunes have turned around drastically since their shock early exit at the 2015 World Cup.
Playing a firecracker brand of cricket in a turnaround from a disastrous 2015 cup exit, England went on to lift the world cup four years later under Eoin Morgan who has since retired. But they remain a top rung contender to retain the cup under Jos Buttler.
ALL-ROUND AUSTRALIA BASK ON 5-CUP RECORD
Five-time winners Australia remain a deadly threat to any team to lifting the cup given their proud record boasting of an all-round in-depth side in all three departments. Packed of all-rounders Cameron Green could bat as low as eight in a squad. One constraint is in the spin department with injury sidelined Ashton Agar rendering Adam Zampa the sole spinner in the squad.
Glenn Maxwell is regarded the crucial all-rounder averaging 37 with a strike-rate of 180 in overs 41-50 since the last World Cup with his off-spin a plus factor.
Historically, New Zealand have only won 29% of the one-day internationals since 2010 t in India, with six victories in the 21 matches they have played in that time. They have also struggled with their bowling at the death recently, conceding runs at 7.91 per over in that phase since the last World Cup, the second highest among full members. However, there has been a tremendous resurgence in the side evidenced by the Kiwis nearly lifting the world cup last time which does put them in the reckoning on a well-balanced side with left arm seamer Trent Boult’s 39 wickets in the past two World Cups, second only to Australia’s Mitchell Starc (49).
South Africa’s long elusive journey to the world cup finds them with possibly their best chance based on a strong side with Heinrich Klaasen one of the topmost in-form batsmen in the world in this format of a potentially long tail, with Keshav Maharaj likely to bat as high as eight, with Marco Jansen at seven.
Klaasen, the big-hitting wicketkeeper-batter averages 59 with a strike-rate of 151 in one-day internationals in 2023, including a brilliant 174 from just 83 deliveries against Australia in September – the highest ODI score coming in in the 25th over or later.
A forceful side in the middle overs since the last World Cup, and averaging 45.98 runs per wicket, largely thanks to Babar Azam and Mohammad Rizwan, Pakistan is an outside force to cup spoils having two of the fastest bowlers in the tournament in Shaheen Shah Afridi and Haris Rauf.
SRI LANKA SQUAD:
Dasun Shanaka (c), Kusal Mendis (vc), Kusal Perera, Pathum Nissanka, Dimuth Karunaratne, Sadeera Samarawickrama, Charith Asalanka, Dhananjaya de Silva, Dushan Hemantha, Maheesh Theekshana, Dunith Wellalage, Kasun Rajitha, Matheesha Pathirana, Lahiru Kumara, Dilshan Madushanka.
SOUTH AFRICA SQUAD:
Temba Bavuma (C), Gerald Coetzee, Quinton de Kock, Reeza Hendricks, Marco Jansen, Heinrich Klaasen, Keshav Maharaj, Aiden Markram, David Miller, Lungi Ngidi, Andile Phehlukwayo, Kagiso Rabada, Tabraiz Shamsi, Rassie van der Dussen, Lizaad Williams.