Sri Lanka stunned the world by winning the World Cup in 1996, a mere 14 years after becoming a Test nation. Since then, they have come close on a couple of occasions, finishing runners-up in the last two editions. In this episode of Contenders, former India captain Rahul Dravid and former South Africa captain Graeme Smith analyse Sri Lanka’s chances of clinching a second title. Can the experienced players in the squad make it count on the big stage? Will their impressive record in ICC tournaments continue?What they said about…
Impressive record in big tournaments
Smith: The thing about Sri Lanka is that they never get spoken about as favourites. Nobody ever goes into a tournament talking Sri Lanka up but they always find a way to be in contention and they’ve proven that over the years.
Dravid: The last two World Cups have been in the West Indies and India, so the conditions have suited them a little bit more. I think this could be their big challenge, the conditions and how they cope with it.
Experience in the squad
Smith: Their high-performing cricketers are their experienced cricketers, who have been around for a really long time. You look around at Jayawardene, Dilshan, Sangakkara on the batting front, they still dominate the performances and that really gives the freedom to the younger generation.
Dravid: They are generally a very close-knit, good unit and very, very clear about what their roles are. They understand each others’ games really well, they understand each others’ strengths and weaknesses, and I think that makes a big difference.
Malinga’s battle with injury
Dravid: He’s so critical to their side because one of the areas where Sri Lanka would struggle would be in bowling at the death. If you remove Malinga from that line-up and you look around, you don’t really see anyone else [who can bowl at the death].
Mathews as captain
Smith: He’s put in performances to help Sri Lanka win games and I think as a captain, he’s [gaining more and more] respect around the world and certainly within his team now. He’s become a high-performing player, which will really help his leadership.
Sangakkara’s impressive form
Smith: I think he doesn’t quite get the kudos [that] a lot of the other top players have achieved. Just an incredible cricketer and to watch, how he’s churned out the runs in the last year and a half is amazing.
Dravid: At this stage in his career to just keep churning out the runs, game after game, whichever format of the game you put him in [is incredible]. He seems to have hit a purple patch. So that’s brilliant from Sri Lanka’s point of view, they’ve got their best batsman in the best form of his life.
Dravid: He has been phenomenal and his record in all forms of the game has been incredible, and more than that, just the leadership he has provided to Sri Lankan cricket over the last 16-17 years has been terrific.
Senanayake’s comeback after remodelling his action
Smith: He must have a really good understanding of his action [now]. Obviously he has got a good head on him. He understands how he bowls, how he wants to bowl and he has come back and fought back beautifully to be in the World Cup.
Dravid: It’s a big plus, if he is able to bowl in the same way that he has bowled [before reworking his action] with the same level of effectiveness.