Sri Lanka may have had a horror year in terms of squad building and preparation, and the biggest tests undoubtedly lie ahead, but that has failed to dull captain Dasun Shanaka’s optimism ahead of the Men’s T20 World Cup. Drawing parallels to the vintage side that won the 2014 tournament, the Sri Lanka captain feels that his current side has similar depth and variety, something he believes could see them potentially go a “long way in this tournament” – even if they lack considerably in terms of experience.
“If you recall, that squad had a lot of variety and depth. And with the youngsters we have coming through now I feel have the same potential, but the only thing lacking is the experience,” Shanaka said, speaking on a captains’ Zoom call. “If our guys perform to their strengths I feel they can go a long way in this tournament. Our fans in Sri Lanka have been waiting a long time for us to be successful, and I hope we can make them proud.”
Much of Shanaka’s optimism stems from the balance the team has seemingly struck in the past few weeks. For most of the year Sri Lanka’s white-ball batting blueprint had centred around the likes of Danushka Gunathilaka, Niroshan Dickwella and Kusal Mendis, but following the trio’s ban for breaching curfew and bio-bubble protocols, the last few months have seen the Sri Lankan think-tank mix and match several options in the top and middle order with little success.
However, following a training camp last month, which consisted of several intra-squad matches geared towards nailing down roles for each player, Sri Lanka seem to have stumbled on something resembling balance.
Avishka Fernando has been a revelation at No. 4, Chamika Karunaratne and Shanaka have shown promise in their roles as finishers lower down the order, and in the bowling department there are two quicks who can regularly dish out speeds touching 140kph, and spinners with as many variations as you’re likely to see all tournament.
“We were not able to perform up to the mark in the last few years, but still the strength of our squad is very good. We’ve got two guys coming from the IPL [Dushmantha Chameera and Wanindu Hasaranga], Kusal Janith [Perera] at the top of the order and Avishka Fernando, who is going well, coming in at No. 4.
“We are settled with our batting line-up. We’ve recently changed our line-up a bit – I think we’ve struck a good balance.”
The only point of debate, combination-wise, might be at the top of the order, with the opening combination still unsettled. Sri Lanka have tried out three different pairs in their last four matches, with one of Dinesh Chandimal, Perera and Dhananjaya de Silva partnering Pathum Nissanka. Indeed, despite being a last-minute addition to the squad, Nissanka seems to be the only certainty in terms of Sri Lanka’s opening combo, and Shanaka is backing the highly rated youngster – who has yet to make his mark in white-ball cricket – to show his class on the biggest stage.
“He’s been a guy coming through the system, so we know how capable he is. Still, when you come to the biggest stage you have to make your mark by scoring good runs. I feel he will make this tournament his own and make it count.”
Shanaka has far fewer concerns is in the bowling department. Even with Nuwan Pradeep being ruled out of the tournament with an eleventh-hour hamstring injury, Sri Lanka have in Chameera and Lahiru Kumara two bowlers capable of clocking high speeds.
Chameera’s 2021 T20 record in particular has been worthy of note, with his 15 wickets in 12 T20Is and an economy rate of 6.51. Needless to say a fit Chameera is integral to Sri Lanka’s plans.
“Going with two main fast bowlers, they give a lot of quality to the squad. And Associate nations, they don’t face a lot of 140+ fast bowlers.
“Obviously losing Pradeep is a concern. He had been bowling brilliantly over the last six months, and we were counting on him during this tournament, but still what we can get from Lahiru Kumara and Dushmantha is massive.”
In the spin department, meanwhile, Sri Lanka boast the No.2-ranked spinner in the world in Hasaranga – a 2021 that brought 20 wickets in 12 matches with an economy rate of 5.59, tells its own story – while in Maheesh Theekshana Sri Lanka have the latest from their production line of mystery spinners. Akila Dananjaya also provides experience and guile, even if he is yet to scale the heights he frequented prior to a change in bowling action.
“He [Hasaranga] has been amazing over the last two years, and now he’s sitting in the No. 2 spot [in the rankings]. He’s very hard to pick at times, because he bowls from a lower angle. Meanwhile, along with Wanindu, we also have Maheesh Theekshana – that’s two young, exciting talents. Going forward I feel that they will do a really good job for the team.”
Sri Lanka also have one final ace in their corner in Mahela Jayawardene, who recently took up a role as consultant coach. During his stint with Mumbai Indians in the IPL, Jayawardene has proven himself as one of the most tactically astute minds in world cricket, and Shanaka feels having him in his corner is proving invaluable.
“He’s been amazing over the years, and tactically he’s brilliant. As a captain, he’s been giving me a lot of support in the field. For me, tactically he’s the best in the business. He’s been a real help to all of us.”
Sri Lanka begin their T20 World Cup campaign against Namibia on 18 October. (cricinfo)
Quarter-finals from today
Under 19 Division III Tier ‘B’ Cricket
The quarter-finals of the Under 19 Inter Schools Division III Tier ‘B’ cricket tournament conducted by Sri Lanka Schools Cricket Association will commence with the Maris Stella College, Thimbirigaskatuwa meeting Wickramabahu National School, Gampola at Wickramashila National School ground Giriulla today.
Quarter-finals line up
Maris Stella, Thimbirigaskatuwa V Wickramabahu NS, Gampola at Giriulla
Ananda NS, Puttalam V Sri Sumangala, Kelaniya at Giriulla
Hindu College, Matale V St. Michael’s College, Batticalloa at Polonnaruwa
D.S. Senanayake, Ampara V Pannala NS at Polonnaruwa
Neyara to meet Anjalike in the women’s singles final
Neyara Weerawansa beat top seed Savini Jayasuriya in the semi-final to book a final berth in the women’s singles final against Anjalika Kurera in the 106th Colombo Championships at the Sri Lanka Tennis Association courts on Monday.
The semi-final, which recommenced on Monday after being interrupted by wet weather on the previous day, the British School Colombo player scored 6-1, 5-7, 10-7 to oust last year finalist Jayasuriya.
She will now encounter Anjalika Kurera in the final.
Aahil Kaleel Under 12 champion
Meanwhile, S. Thomas’ College, Mount Lavinia player Aahil Kaleel beat Methika Wickramasinghe to win the Under 12 boys singles title on Sunday. He scored 1-4, 4-2, 10-7 in the final after edging out Pasindu Rukunnayake (quarter-final) and Chaminda Abeysinghe (semis).
Hayleys crowned winners of MCA premier league
Hayleys Group Recreation Club (HGRC) led by Avishka Fernando were crowned as the “League” winners of the 28th Singer-MCA Premier League which came to conclusion with a glittering awards presentation held at the MCA Legends New Wing on Thursday.
Though the tournament had a pre-mature ending, Hayleys by virtue of being unbeaten led the table of points at the point when the tournament was stopped. The MCA Tournament Committee with the consent of the rest of the three teams, decided to award the league title to Hayleys.
Hayleys, playing only their third season in the MCA Premier League, won the T20 title under Avishka Fernando in the previous season.
On their way to the title Hayleys beat HNB (by five wickets), CDB Finance (by 96 runs), John Keells (by two wickets) and HNB in their return game (by two wickets).
Avishka Fernando captained the title winning Hayleys team.
Hayleys squad included Avishka Fernando (Captain), Prabath Jayasuriya (VC), Dilruwan Perera, Kithruwan Vithanage, Chathuranga de Silva, Ron Chandraguptha, Lahiru Samarakoon, Nimesha Gunasinghe, Pasindu Thirimadura, Kavishka Anjula, Santhush Gunatillake, Kalana Perera, Vishad Randika, Navindu Fernando, Mohamed Shamaaz, Lahiru Tirimanne, Binura Fernando, Lasith Embuldeniya, Thashik Perera, Kabil Kapilraj, Lakshina Rodrigo and Sahan Nanayakkara. They were coached by Nishantha Weerasinghe with Vimukthi Deshapriya as the assistant coach. Pramoth Fernando was the manager.
Awards were given away by the Chief Guest, CEO, Singer Group Companies, Mahesh Wijewardene, Marketing Director, Singer SL, PLC, Shamil Perera and MCA Officials, President, Nalin Wickremesinghe, Senior Vice President and Chairman Tournament Committee, Mahesh de Alwis and Vice President Sirosha Gunatillake.
It was a memorable moment for Hayleys Group Chairman and CEO, Mohan Pandithage, Group Head HR, Dharshi Thalpahewa and the HGRC Officials – Jeramy Anandappa (President), Mohan Fernando (VP) and Ruchina Jayatillaka (Co Ordinator), who were present at the event.
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