Champions Trophy 2013

Will fifth time be the charm?

Andrew Fidel Fernando

June 7, 2013

Comments: 21 | Text size: A | A

Sri Lanka's recent ICC tournament history reads like the script for a formulaic romantic comedy, only without the feel-good ending. They may have only been bridesmaids four times, instead of 27, but they still haven't been able to take James Marsden home. The journey through each tournament has featured its share of warm-fuzzies (Muttiah Muralitharan picking up Scott Styris off his last ball in home internationals, newbie Angelo Mathews' pioneering athleticism on the boundary), as well as a mix of seemingly insurmountable obstacles that are unconventionally overcome (when faced with a supremely in-form Chris Gayle in the 2009 World Twenty20 semi-final, Sri Lanka dismissed all his teammates and left Gayle unbeaten, carrying his bat). Having done everything right though, Sri Lanka have ended up at the wrong terminal with their hearts broken, instead of catching their soulmates at the airport.

The Champions Trophy is a little down market - more Paul Rudd than Brad Pitt or Ben Affleck - but many of the protagonists of those four finals will make up the preferred XI in England, and by now are desperate for a taste of major-tournament glory. Men like Mahela Jayawardene, Kumar Sangakkara and Tillakaratne Dilshan only have a few chances left.

This time though, expectations of the team are different. There may not have been a major turnover of personnel since the World Twenty20 last year, but there has been a firm focus on regeneration, and mistakes have been cast as learning experiences. A home loss to Bangladesh would ordinarily draw the ire of Sri Lanka's fans, but with two young men at the helm, a drawn ODI series was largely tolerated. On paper, Sri Lanka have the balance and the firepower to be a genuine title-contender, but if they cannot unearth the collective courage that has ruled their past campaigns, a semi-final exit shapes as a satisfactory result.


Kusal Perera hits to the leg side, Sri Lanka v Bangladesh, 2nd ODI, Hambantota, March 25, 2013
Kusal Perera has the potential to make or break Sri Lanka's batting innings © Associated Press
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Vital to their hopes is the batsmen's ability to adapt to England's early-summer conditions, and in doing so, dull the threat of three of the best pace attacks in the tournament. England's confident fast men will back themselves at home, while both New Zealand and Australia's attacks have already caused Sri Lanka strife in helpful conditions in the past year. The team has also not had a lot of time to train together because of the IPL and the abandonment of their first warm-up match will not have helped either.

Key player

As in each of their recent runs to the final, Sri Lanka's bowling shapes as their stronger suit, and this time Nuwan Kulasekara, not Lasith Malinga, is best equipped to have most impact. Kulasekara has added an away-seamer to his stock indipper in the past year, and has also recently excelled in seam-friendly conditions abroad. He bowled the spell of his life at the Gabba in January, wiping Australia out for 74 with a five-wicket haul, and with the two new balls now making Malinga less effective at the death, he will hope to pick up the slack with similar performances.

Surprise package

A 22-year-old pocket-battleship, Kusal Perera has been one of the most exciting finds for Sri Lanka, in recent months. Bold to the point of being brash, and possessed of a technique learned from watching Sanath Jayasuriya on television, Perera has so far impressed in seven ODIs in Australia and Sri Lanka. He is yet to acquire the judgment that was key to Jayasuriya's success and having looked good while tonking bowlers to the boundary, he has tended to perish abruptly to a ball he should have treated with more respect. If he can form a fruitful partnership with Dilshan atop the innings, Sri Lanka have an opening pair capable of batting the opposition out of the match in the first 20 overs.

Weakness

Opponents have often spoken of Sri Lanka's 'soft underbelly' with the bat, and the middle order remains their least convincing area ahead of this tournament. Angelo Mathews is likely to enjoy seaming pitches with the ball, but although he is among the world's finest finishers on his night, he carries an unreliable streak that is difficult to ignore. Thisara Perera and Jeevan Mendis have provided valuable late-innings adrenaline shots in the past, but are less capable of spearheading sustained recoveries should things go awry at the top. Attacks that take four Sri Lanka wickets before the 20th over will be confident of dismissing them cheaply.

Tournament history

Despite their consistency in World Cups and World Twenty20 tournaments, Sri Lanka have not made it out of the group stage in the last three Champions Trophy tournaments. In 2009, they misread two pitches, playing two spin bowlers on a green top against England, and fielding first on a flat track against New Zealand, and were beaten in both matches. They were joint winners in the 2002 tournament, which was played in Sri Lanka, after rain made the final against India impossible.

Recent form

Sri Lanka lost their first ever home ODI to Bangladesh in March, finishing with a shared series, but claimed a more creditable drawn series in Australia early in the year. Had the Sydney Cricket Ground's drainage not mysteriously failed after less than an hour of drizzle, Sri Lanka were favourites to win that match and walk away with the trophy.

Key batsmen are largely out of form, having fared poorly in the IPL, but bad results leading into a big tournament have not stopped Sri Lanka from performing admirably in it in the past, and the side will view the Champions Trophy as a fresh challenge in a new format.

Andrew Fidel Fernando is ESPNcricinfo's Sri Lanka correspondent. He tweets here

RSS Feeds: Andrew Fidel Fernando

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

Posted by trav696 on (June 7, 2013, 23:02 GMT)

@Anubhav-the-Experience, that is the best comment I have seen on ESPN cricinfo, 'don't act like WWE fans.' LMAOO, completely agree with you. Let the teams sort it out on the field and the best of luck to SL. SL fans, we shouldn't get too cocky until SL really looks in form and has some momentum in the tournament...

Posted by MenInBlue1 on (June 7, 2013, 22:34 GMT)

@ Manasa Gammanpila ; DO NOT talk about Indians.. what do you mean by we are not Indians, last time i checked we have better record and history then your sorry team and yes Srilanka is the only team to lose four ICC tournament finals. WE are better than Srilanka whether you like it or not so think twice before you say anything about Indians.

Posted by samincolumbia on (June 7, 2013, 22:05 GMT)

@Baseball Sucks - India got lucky in the 2011 WC final too - They got to play against Sri Lanka- India's favorite punching bag -:) India are lucky to be the #1 ODI team as well.

Posted by nilb on (June 7, 2013, 21:14 GMT)

Win or loose looking forward for seeing a Kusal Perera show. I agree with most fans that they shoud've brought Ajantha Mendis or Akila Dhananjaya. Amd of-course with the Sri Lanka's past performance and the current pace attack compared to others shou'dn't keep such high hopes about the progress of the tournament. I hope they'll go early rather than having another defeat in a final.

Posted by SaadRocx on (June 7, 2013, 20:55 GMT)

I really wish SriLanka all the very best :))) hope they thrash the kiwis with a big margin!!! SL my #1 team after pak...(ALL THE VERY BEST)

Posted by Anubhav-the-Experience on (June 7, 2013, 18:47 GMT)

Why don't we keep nasty comments away from this page and let the cricketers decide who is better for the current period/day. Don't act like WWE fans.

Posted by priceless1 on (June 7, 2013, 18:22 GMT)

@gnanzcupid i think you have not been following the SL cricket for the past 2 years

Posted by   on (June 7, 2013, 18:13 GMT)

@ThyrSaadam hehe.... In England 7 out of last 10 matches are wins against Eng.. in AUS 9 out of 14 in last 14.. only SA 2 to 3 serise lose.. better search before comment pal. we are not indians.

Posted by Baseball-Sucks on (June 7, 2013, 18:01 GMT)

@andrew27994 ; Oh c'mon.. don't try to single me out here. What about your fellow Indian fans such as ,Narbavi, Harmony111, Jadejafan and many more come here n make derogatory comments about Sri Lanka. I'm just returning the favor buddy. So Don't make it personal. :) FYI, we've got a very good, balanced team, full of great young talents. And we're gonna go all the way unlike your team. And Yes,India won.Congratulation !!!! BUT, India got really lucky due to the absence of Steyn n Morkel. I think you also know that. right ???

Posted by gnanzcupid on (June 7, 2013, 18:00 GMT)

I personally feel its v difficult for the lankan team to progress to semis with the kind of line up they have. In the past Lanka was winning mainly because of murali with few other stalwarts around him. After murali it has all been down the hill for the lankans. Reason being obvious.

Posted by andrew27994 on (June 7, 2013, 17:31 GMT)

I don't dislike the SL team or Sri Lankans for that matter. Its just some fans like Baseball-Sucks who don't behave like true cricket fans. I'm glad that India's win has kept him at bay and I hope that he has accepted the result like a man.

Anyways, in my opinion the SL team has a good chance of making it to the semis at least. Teams like Australia and England have been struggling in their previous matches but I still think England is easily the strongest team, not on paper but on potential. I think if SL make it to the semis then their success depends on whether the conditions are more favourable to their style of cricket. If the wicket has something for both seam and spin they have great chances in this tournament.

Posted by ThyrSaadam on (June 7, 2013, 17:29 GMT)

Will fifth time be the charm? - NO

Same batsmen who cant play outside the sub continent

Posted by Prem2248 on (June 7, 2013, 17:08 GMT)

International Cricket at present that can't spin the ball nor extract any bounce off the pitch unless it was a 5th day. He was chosen for this tournament leaving out Ajantha, one of the leading wkt takers in Domestic Cricket of this year, therefore SL has no hope in winning any tournament as long as this non-spinning spinner and the 3 veteran are members of the Team. SL badly needs good selectors that understand the value and importance of having players that have maintained consistency from Junior Levels. The Country's future is more important than that of the over hyped players; therefore they should make way for the best Schoolboy cricketers of last 3-4 years, otherwise these youngsters fate would become the same as many other brilliant unfortunate batters in the last 2 decades.

Posted by Prem2248 on (June 7, 2013, 17:03 GMT)

SL doesn't need the services of over-valued players in their mid-30s. They should have been dropped 3- 4 years ago because, the Country produces extremely talented batters of Attapattu's, Samaraweera's class at regular basis, that have full control over almost every stroke they play and Brilliant spinners as well. The Country's long standing problems mainly lies with the Jokers. These J&Ps of last 2 decades are very much allergic to batters of Dravid's, Amla's, Trott's class as a result they have always given preference to risky- reckless batters (for few exciting strokes they posses) that has no technique to stroke the ball all along the ground, therefore these babes have never been in a position to score a chance-less 50 at any stage of their innings. (This is the main reason why, SL couldn't maintain any level of consistency). The main spinner (average performer in Domestic Cricket) too has been a burden to the side because he's one of the poorest fielders in the 2 B CNTD

Posted by samincolumbia on (June 7, 2013, 16:14 GMT)

First, the Sri lankan team were called India's favourite punching bag and now they are being called bridesmaids...and rightly so.

Posted by   on (June 7, 2013, 15:41 GMT)

i think there are not a lot of hopes for this tournament by the fans here, but as always we play well in ICC tournaments. so lets hope the Lions go all the way this time!!

Posted by priceless1 on (June 7, 2013, 15:32 GMT)

Team looks okay , but only worry is the Caption ...

Posted by sams235 on (June 7, 2013, 15:26 GMT)

@Master_mihil: huh, what?!

Posted by ShehanJay on (June 7, 2013, 14:16 GMT)

Sri Lanka are not good enough to win with a bunch of aging stars and young players with little experience...plus they have lacked the all important LUCK that they had in 1996.

Posted by Master_Mihil on (June 7, 2013, 13:58 GMT)

We can't, Shouldn't win this if we can't over come India. We should rightfully own the cup after beating india.

Posted by FiGhtCluB_99 on (June 7, 2013, 13:20 GMT)

Winning one game in the group stage would be a huge achievement for this declining team and the author is talking about winning the tournament LOL. Our young tigers can beat this declining team.

Comments have now been closed for this article

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Tournament Results
England v India at Birmingham - Jun 23, 2013
India won by 5 runs
India v Sri Lanka at Cardiff - Jun 20, 2013
India won by 8 wickets (with 90 balls remaining)
England v South Africa at The Oval - Jun 19, 2013
England won by 7 wickets (with 75 balls remaining)
Australia v Sri Lanka at The Oval - Jun 17, 2013
Sri Lanka won by 20 runs
England v New Zealand at Cardiff - Jun 16, 2013
England won by 10 runs
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