Asia Cup 2014

Chance for Sri Lanka to look beyond big three

Karthik Krishnaswamy in Dhaka

February 24, 2014

Comments: 22 | Text size: A | A

Mahela Jayawardene, Tillakaratne Dilshan and Kumar Sangakkara share a joke during practice, Dambulla, May 13, 2003
A Sri Lanka ODI line-up without even one of the big three is almost unfathomable © Getty Images

On May 14, 1999, Sri Lanka opened the defence of their World Cup title, against England at Lord's. Their top seven, in batting order, went like this: Jayasuriya, Mahanama, Atapattu, Hashan Tillakaratne, de Silva, Ranatunga, Kaluwitharana. No one knew it then, but it would be nearly 15 years before they next lined up for an ODI without Mahela Jayawardene, Tillakaratne Dilshan or Kumar Sangakkara.

On Saturday, against Bangladesh, the three batsmen weren't really missed. Jayawardene hadn't featured in the entire series and in the absence of Dilshan, who had injured his finger, Kusal Perera slammed his first ODI century. Dinesh Chandimal, who took over the rested Sangakkara's wicketkeeping gloves, scored 64 as Sri Lanka completed a comfortable six-wicket win to sweep the series 3-0.

It was a good end to a tour that had contained, across all formats, plenty of glimpses of batting potential for a future without the big three. Chandimal, Kaushal Silva and Kithuruwan Vithanage had scored centuries during the Test series, Ashan Priyanjan made an important 60 in the second ODI and Thisara Perera smashed a 57-ball 80 to dig Sri Lanka out of a hole during the first ODI.

All of this will have given Sri Lanka a not too shabby vision of how things might look in the post-big-three era. With two of them back in the side, it will also give the team the appearance of a solid top order when they open their Asia Cup campaign against Pakistan. A top seven of Kusal Perera, Jayawardene, Sangakkara, Chandimal, Priyanjan, Mathews and Thisara Perera looks like a pretty good mix of talent, experience and recent form.

Scratch beneath the surface, however, and things don't look quite as good. Since the start of 2013, only four Sri Lankan batsmen with 10 or more ODI appearances have averaged over 30. Predictably enough, those four are Sangakkara, Dilshan, Jayawardene and Angelo Mathews.

With their scores in the final ODI against Bangladesh, Perera and Chandimal only bought themselves a bit of breathing room. In a team with a bigger talent pool, they may not have had that chance.

Leading up to his century, Perera had averaged 15.00 over 13 innings leading up to the start of the World T20 in June 2013. He had been dismissed for single-digit scores in nine of those 13 innings. Those aren't the most reassuring numbers for an opener. Chandimal, meanwhile, had come into the match plagued by a very different issue: he had been out in single figures only three times in that period, but had only scored one half-century.

Both will need to build on what they did in their last match. For Sri Lanka's younger batsmen, in general, the Asia Cup could be an important tournament, in the sense of showing them where they stand, in their last major ODI tournament before the World Cup.

Sri Lanka have been in Bangladesh for nearly a month now, and that might give them a small advantage at the start of the tournament. But when their batsmen strap on their pads on Tuesday, they will face a genuinely high-class attack for the first time on this entire trip.

They didn't do too badly when they faced Pakistan in the UAE two months ago, losing 3-2 in a generally high-scoring series. But in the third and fourth ODIs, when the pressure was at its highest, they were bowled out for 213 (chasing 327) and 225. Both times, they were three down for less than 50 against the new ball.

Sri Lanka will face plenty of situations like that, against bowling attacks of similar quality, on their road to the World Cup. Their younger batsmen will need to show they can perform in those situations if they are to lessen the load on the big three. Sangakkara and Jayawardene are 36, and Dilshan is 37. They won't be around forever.

Karthik Krishnaswamy is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

Posted by Dhushan on (February 25, 2014, 10:44 GMT)

@sachin_equal_to_bradman: If you already don't know the WC is played in ODI format. SL may not have won any tests in Aus, but they have performed consistently well in shorter formats, including beating your India. I don't understand why you type before looking at facts. Get your head out of the clouds.

Posted by Abhishek_Singla on (February 25, 2014, 10:22 GMT)

Not even in Australia, Even in India, Sri Lanka never won even a single Test Match..!!

Posted by AravindVatsal82 on (February 25, 2014, 9:59 GMT)

I still feel Srilanka as one of the team in the final, with the recent form as a team its important to have best 11 on the feild,if they dont make mistake like one in wc 2011,

Posted by AravindVatsal82 on (February 25, 2014, 9:56 GMT)

No surprise for the srilankan side as always made with good individuals & strong group when on the field,the think tank will keep a eye on this India,pakistan which they have to sneak thru one of the team then they have a great chance,.even there is know big names still rely on the few talented players for me for sure they will take the advantage of the India / Pakistan pressure cooker bursting to progress in the tournament.

Posted by nilb on (February 25, 2014, 6:23 GMT)

@Nishanth Ravindrakumar Wow is this guy proud of Indian cricket boards performance in the ICC adminstration?

Posted by sachin_equal_to_bradman on (February 25, 2014, 6:05 GMT)

@KingOwl: What joke are you making here!!! SL have never won a single test in AUS in cricket history??? What do u mean here? Mean to say SL are great when it comes to FAST,BOUNCY and SWINGING tracks??? Thanks for the entertainment mate!!!

Posted by   on (February 25, 2014, 5:47 GMT)

great to had this TRIO. may be after 3 Ws in WI.grinide,hayens,richards inWI, Chappel, marsh, lillie in Aus, Sachin, Sarov, Rahul in India . very rare combination. they are onthe last days n it is not late to groom the next. surely chandimal who scores far better as wicket keeper should be utilized n thirimanna should take place of dilshan n ashan priyanjana looks like a top selection may b next mahela. why not have prasad instaed of maliga who is always trashed by pakistan.

Posted by   on (February 25, 2014, 5:44 GMT)

I think Srilankan limited over squad are fine without the big 3, but in test cricket they will struggle once the stalwarts Jaywerdene and Sanga hang it up. These 2 have been gr8 servants of Srilankan cricket. As someone who has always considered to be my 2nd team after Pakistan I am really hoping they find some solid middle order batsmen to support Matthews once these 3 call it a day. Which maybe after 2015 WC.

Posted by   on (February 25, 2014, 5:07 GMT)

Well Sri Lanka always had a big 3 in each era together with 2 good bowlers. Aravinda, Ranathunga, Hashan Tilakaratne. Jayasuriya, Atapattu, Arnold Sanga, Mahela, Dilshan

Future = Kusal Janith Perera, Mathews, Chandimal/Thirimanne/Any other

Remember Sanga, Jayasuriya, Atapattu n all except Mahela. They had a great talent but failed a lot at the beggining...Mathews already consistant n Kusal n the others will start becoming consistant.

i Would be surprized if SL dont reach atleast the Asia cup final, T20WC Final n ODIWC semis

Posted by Fast_Track_Bully on (February 25, 2014, 4:46 GMT)

As I said earlier, SL cricket is an overloaded Tuk-tuk with lot of youngsters as passengers. The tuk-tuk is running on 3 senior wheels. Even the driver - Mathews- do not know where to drive and how to drive. SL won matches because of its three tyres only. Without them,the tuk-tuk will be on the roadside. dear SL fans, do not hype youngsters blindly, look at their pathetic performances even against lower ranked teams!

Posted by   on (February 25, 2014, 3:18 GMT)

sri lanka has the best chance to come to finals, but losing the final is a another story. however according to me sanga, mahela and dilshan will play till 2015 wc so we have to play them as much as possible to give our youngsters experience such as how to handle pressure situations. asia cup is a important tournament for our youngsters to showcase their talent and to show to the world that they can take over from the great sanga mahela and dilshan. asanka priyanjan is a good cricketer with potentials to succeed IC. But the thing is he has to play matches a lot with the great people and have to get experience as an example the innings he played in 2nd ODI vs Bangladesh, that's true he made 60 odd runs but sanga at the other end had to control him and ahd to tell him how to read such situations and bat, that's the use of having the top 3 guys in the middle in each and every match, our youngsters have to secrete as much as possible from them.

Posted by Vikum72 on (February 24, 2014, 23:47 GMT)

I cant agree with the writer when he claims "In a team with a bigger talent pool, they may not have had that chance". What's the point in having a large pool of young talent, just to chop and change based on short term goals? That's how you ruin young players! You have to select the cream of that large pool of talent and nature them carefully with the long term aim of making them world beaters one day. The seniors are there to sustain the team in that transitional period while passing on their wealth of knowledge and experience to the youngsters. This is what SL do. We have identified the talent of the Chandimals and Pereras and so will persist with them through some inevitable bad patches here and there. An outsider may mistakenly think of this as a lack of other options, but it is not. Every SL great when they firsh started were thought of as just ordinery talent by the world. But think of what they have achieved; think of Jyasuriya, think of Atapattu, Think of Sangakkara etc. etc

Posted by KingOwl on (February 24, 2014, 21:29 GMT)

I am not very confident of SL's performance on these wickets in Bangladesh. But more importantly, I think the team rarely takes the Asia cup seriously. But they will be serious in the T20 WC. And when it comes to the World cup in Aus, I am sure SL will be up there at the top, as always.

Posted by   on (February 24, 2014, 19:52 GMT)

I am a srilankan fan. why some fans are understimated srilanka? srl is agood team they are out standing in icc lol

Posted by tanstell87 on (February 24, 2014, 17:53 GMT)

Indian fan should not forget Thilan Samaraweera who retired a couple of seasons ago...he was brilliant in Sri Lanka...

Posted by priceless1 on (February 24, 2014, 17:40 GMT)

Mahela is out of touch and probably out of form too , better drop him down the batting line up to make sure SL doesn't have batting collapse after opening gets out

Posted by ramz_01 on (February 24, 2014, 16:48 GMT)

everyone Underestimate the talent SL hv. post arjuna,sana,aravinda era ppl frm da globe said thy gona sturggle, bt wt aftrdat hapan? the truth is itz amazing hw much talent SL praduce even wit a small contry.

Posted by TheKeeper on (February 24, 2014, 16:35 GMT)

I too think that Sri Lanka have little problems with their youngsters and the writers portrayal of doom and gloom is baseless and unnecessary. There is plenty of batting talent coming through the ranks and even the bowling is beginning to look better by the day. Sri Lanka will be hard to beat in this Asia Cup.

Posted by Independent_fan on (February 24, 2014, 16:13 GMT)

What you said is very true Rasanga, there is always talented players coming in to the side. Specially batting was never a problem for Sri Lanka even during the pre-world cup (in 1996) era. Thank to well organized school cricket in those days and also to the club cricket. There are concerns about the consistency of players but we overcome these issues with one top score and a couple of good partnerships. We have good feeling about the present composition of the team.

Posted by   on (February 24, 2014, 15:53 GMT)

We are spetators and we want to see the winning sprit. Big three and Rangana should play cricket as much as they can and others need not be worryied and request them to step down. But if they are not in the form they should not seek a place in the team with polical influence as like Sana did. That is not correct. I wish the big four good luck and plenty of good cricket. Pl also remember we just played with B desh. We also do not like to see youngers hit 120 runs in ten overs and all out.

Posted by   on (February 24, 2014, 15:33 GMT)

similar gloom and doom scenarios were predicted when aravinda,ranatunga,thilakaratne..etc retired, then again when jayasuriya,atapattu,arnold left and now facing the retirements of mahela,sanga and dilshan..we may not have the talent pool of india or paksitan, but there will always be few class players around to take the baton forward and to be competitive ..

Posted by   on (February 24, 2014, 15:29 GMT)

"Leading up to his century, Perera had averaged 15.00 over 13 innings leading up to the start of the World T20 in June 2013." Could you clarify this statement? I reckon it should be Champions Trophy and not World T20

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