June 11, 2010

Advantage Sri Lanka

Madhusudhan Ramakrishnan
Home conditions could give Sri Lanka the edge in the Asia Cup, a tournament in which they have been the best team in the last 15 years

Sri Lanka have by far the best recent record in the Asia Cup, winning three of the last four tournaments, including the last two in 2004 and 2008. They also come into the tournament fresh from a victory in the triangular series in Zimbabwe. India have won four times too, but the most recent of those wins came in 1995.

The table below summarises the overall tournament performance of the four participating teams. Sri Lanka have won 12 of their 16 games in the Asia Cup since the start of the decade, followed by Pakistan who have won 11 of their 14 games. India, on the other hand, have been ordinary, winning eight and losing seven of the 15 matches played.

Performance of teams in the Asia Cup (excluding matches involving Hong Kong and the UAE)
Team Matches Played Matches Won matches lost W/L ratio
Sri Lanka 34 24 10 2.40
Pakistan 26 15 10 1.50
India 30 17 12 1.41
Bangladesh 24 0 24 0.00

Traditionally, Sri Lanka have been a tough side to beat in their own backyard, but over the last five years India have had a fair degree of success there. Since the beginning of 2005, India have a 11-7 win-loss record in Sri Lanka, which is better than the home team's 20-16 ratio. Sri Lanka, though, won the last time the tournament was hosted in their home country, in 2004.

Performance of teams in Sri Lanka since Jan 2005
Team Matches played Matches won Matches lost W/L ratio
India 19 11 7 1.57
Pakistan 8 4 3 1.33
Sri Lanka 38 20 16 1.25
Bangladesh 6 0 6 0.00

Despite an ordinary showing in the triangular series in Zimbabwe, India have been the best subcontinent team in one-day internationals since January 2008. Pakistan have played just 46 matches, which is the lowest among subcontinent teams, but have a good win-loss record.

Team performances in ODIs since Jan 2008
Team Matches played Matches won Matches lost W/L ratio
India 72 42 24 1.75
Pakistan 46 26 20 1.30
Sri Lanka 64 33 28 1.17
Bangladesh 55 19 36 0.52

In the absence of Sanath Jayasuriya, Sri Lanka go into the Asia Cup without the top run-getter in the tournament. Jayasuriya is the only one to score more than 1000 runs in this competition, and also has the most hundreds (six). India will miss Sachin Tendulkar, who is the second-highest with 799. Unlike Jayasuriya, though, Tendulkar has struggled to score hundreds in the tournament, getting only one century despite making it past 50 seven times.

Pakistan will be boosted by the return of Shoaib Malik, who has been an extremely consistent performer in the Asia Cup, scoring 528 runs at an average of more than 75. Muttiah Muralitharan's return to the squad will be a huge plus for Sri Lanka considering he has been the leading wicket-taker in the tournament. They will miss Ajantha Mendis, though, who was in terrific form in the previous edition of the Asia Cup.

All the matches are going to be played under lights at the Rangiri Stadium in Dambulla. This venue has been the toughest to score in among all venues in Sri Lanka. The table below summarises the batting stats at the three major venues in Sri Lanka. The number of runs scored in boundaries per match is the lowest in Dambulla, thanks to the big ground and relatively slow outfield. If that continues to be the case in this tournament, the emphasis will be on swift fielding and running between the wickets, where Sri Lanka will have an edge. The overall strike rate and average is also the lowest at this venue, which suggests the tournament could be a low scoring one. Teams that have batted first in day night games have won seven games and lost six, which does not indicate any major advantage.

Batting stats for various grounds in Sri Lanka since Jan 1 2000
Ground Matches played Average Strike rate 100 50 Fours Sixes Boundary runs per match
R. Premadasa Stadium, Colombo 59 26.00 72.34 23 127 1984 157 150.4
Sinhalese Sports Club Ground, Colombo 25 23.76 67.72 8 34 829 72 149.9
Rangiri Dambulla International Stadium 29 22.44 62.75 3 41 862 71 133.5

Both fast bowlers and spinners have performed similarly at this venue as summarised in the table below. The spinners have a slightly better average and strike-rate when compared to the pace bowlers. Muralitharan is the leading bowler at this venue having picked up 39 wickets in 18 matches followed by Farveez Maharoof, who has 18 wickets from nine games.

Pace vs Spin at Dambulla
Type of bowler Matches played Overs bowled Runs conceded Wickets taken Average Economy rate Strike rate
Pace 29 1548.0 6207 229 27.10 4.00 40.5
Spin 29 1063.0 4318 165 26.16 4.06 38.6