Experience Sri Lanka's plus in unfamiliar conditions
Former India captain Rahul Dravid and former South African captain Graeme Smith believe Sri Lanka will be well served by their "experienced" and "high-performing cricketers" at the upcoming World Cup. Dravid and Smith were speaking on Contenders, ESPNcricinfo's World Cup preview show.
"It's a really well-balanced squad. They've got some really experienced batsmen," Dravid said. "They've got the likes of [Kumar] Sangakkara, [Mahela] Jayawardene and [Tillakaratne] Dilshan upfront. Even with the ball they have a good blend of some really good spinners, someone like a Rangana Herath, Sachithra Senanayake as well. Some good fast bowlers as well. Obviously the key for me is [Lasith] Malinga's injury, if Malinga can recover from his [ankle] injury [for which he had surgery in September] and bowl the way he can, that makes a huge impact on the side."
"Their high-performing cricketers are their experienced cricketers, who have been around for a really long time," Smith said. "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 of batsmen to play. I think Angelo Mathews [recently] has really stepped up and played some key innings with the bat for them and obviously he's captain; that's crucial."
Although Sri Lanka have been beaten easily in their last two ODI series in India and New Zealand, they have always produced strong performances at global tournaments. Sri Lanka have reached the last two World Cup finals, losing in 2007 to Australia and 2011 to India. They also won the World T20 in Bangladesh last year. "The last two World Cups have been in the West Indies and India, so the conditions have suited them a little bit more," Dravid said. "I think this could be their big challenge, the conditions and how they cope with it.
"I always felt that it was a nice team to bat first against, if you can get a good total against them, you had a better chance for a win," Smith said. "But if they bat first, and they get runs on the board, they certainly know how to squeeze you, tighten the game with their spinners, crafty thinkers around the game. They're a very tough team to beat in these tournaments."