World Twenty20 2012 September 17, 2012

Can Sri Lanka strike big at home?



Sri Lanka enter the World Twenty20 under more pressure to win the title than usual, and this is only partly because they are hosts. They have failed the final test thrice in limited-overs world events since 2007, and fans are growing weary of the bridesmaids label. The team will assert that they have done well to make it so far, so often, and given their lack of consistency between major tournaments, they may be right - but that does not dim the agony of being repeatedly pipped at the finish.

Even now, some lament the 2011 World Cup final and dwell on the could-have-beens. Perhaps unfairly. There is not much grace for a team who have performed to expectation in crunch games. But their best was not good enough against better teams in previous finals. Unless Sri Lanka can lift their performance to get their hands on that trophy, they will underwhelm fans at home.

The team is also coming into the end of a transition phase, with the young players in the side now showing more skill and maturity. Thisara Perera has been on the forefront of that transformation with the ball, while Angelo Mathews is on the way to becoming one of the game's best finishers. Others like Shaminda Eranga and Dilshan Munaweera will find the current set up a much more stable atmosphere to settle into and than it was twelve months ago when the team was in the middle of a post-World Cup funk. With Mahela Jayawardene set to reassess his captaincy in January, the youngsters must come into their own and reassure the fans that the path ahead is a bright one. What better stage to do that than at a big tournament at home?

Key players

Mahela Jayawardene has plenty to ponder even before the tournament has begun. He is largely responsible for Akila Dananjaya's elevation to the national team, but when and how should the 18-year-old be used in a manner that will both aid Sri Lanka in the short term and promote Dananjaya's own development? Beyond Dananjaya, how to manage an attack that relies partly on its uniqueness to be effective, against opponents who may have grown wise to its wiles?

In addition to all this, as the team's best Twenty20 batsman, Jayawardene must also ensure his own game is on song. If Munaweera opens alongside Tillakaratne Dilshan, he will have to play telling innings from a less-favoured batting position. 

Surprise package

Shaminda Eranga has shown capacity to impress on a variety of surfaces, and Sri Lanka will require that of their bowlers, as they will have to do well at all three venues if they are to go deep into the tournament. His movement will help at the seam-friendly venues and his pace off the pitch will be handy in Colombo in the knockout matches, if Sri Lanka get that far.


The lower middle order has been Sri Lanka's downfall in limited-overs cricket in recent years, and this tournament shows no signs of reversing that trend. Kumar Sangakkara provides much-needed solidity to the batting from three or four, but aggression is not his game, and with either Lahiru Thirimanne or Dinesh Chandimal set to follow him to the crease, Sri Lanka run the risk of playing one too many accumulators. As was the case in the warm-up match against India, the finishers could be left with too much to do. 

World T20 history

Sri Lanka's best World Twenty20 tournament was in 2009, where a varied attack took them to the final, which they lost to Pakistan. In 2007 they faltered in the Super Eights, while in 2010, they lost a semi final to eventual champions England. 

Recent form

In the three Twenty20s Sri Lanka have played in 2012, they have lost two, and won one, but given the infrequency of matches, perhaps their one-day form is a better indicator. They lost four of the five ODIs in a home bilateral series against India, though they had good outings against Pakistan in June and in Australia earlier in the year.

Andrew Fernando is ESPNcricinfo's correspondent in Sri Lanka

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Arjun on September 18, 2012, 17:05 GMT

    why there is no opening ceremony for the world cup

  • Arjun on September 18, 2012, 15:23 GMT

    What....shocked n surprised to hear there is no WorldT20 opening ceremony. How come SL said yes to Hawk-eye. Weird decisions and strange country.

  • daksh on September 18, 2012, 14:49 GMT


  • Dummy4 on September 18, 2012, 11:58 GMT

    Yes, kupu must play this tournament. Be cox he is in good touch since SLPL.

  • zan on September 18, 2012, 11:30 GMT


  • Pushpa on September 18, 2012, 4:49 GMT

    The team selection is good for sri lanka...but we have to change according to the team,specially the venue...for matches play in pallekale,helpful to the seamers...we can play one spinner and eranga,thisara,mathews,malinga and kula...with other venues,we can include 2 spinners and 3 fast bowlers....but selection must be done how they play in recent past with that specific country and how they perform...the batting line up is bit ok...we can use chandimal or thirimanne in that place...but kapugedara is the best suit in that position...but the squad can not rely on him...because of his inconsistence...even in the slpl,he didn't show what he can do in first few games,but blasted after selecting the national squad...

  • Satish on September 18, 2012, 4:15 GMT

    Would still name SL and one of the semifinalist and even finalist. From then, it would be great if they can win the tournament. They have been in few finals and not sure whether they choke in there or not that confident in the finals. But fi they win, there will be many more to come i suppose. Their slow medium pace bowling all rounders gives then the advantage over other teams. Three type of all rounders. Kula a bowler who can bat, Mathews a batsman who can bat and Thissera who can with with bat/ball on his day. Plus, the experienced guys in Dilshan, Mahela, Sanga, Malinga and Herath. The performance of the rest 3 slots will be a bonus for them. Got some exciting options in Munaweera, Dhanenjeya, Thirimanne, Eranga, Chandimal, Mendis to chose from. The big 8 wil be the key and the rest 3 the surprise elements.

  • Dummy4 on September 18, 2012, 2:21 GMT

    SL is in Group C with SA. It could also qualify for 'C' label when it comes to finals.

  • Dummy4 on September 18, 2012, 1:13 GMT

    SL will make it to the semis...but the games after that will be tight against the best teams...

  • Mathew on September 17, 2012, 19:21 GMT

    Although a fan of SL cricket they like Ind need to find some bowlers (at all levels). Posting massive totals and articles about the newest batting sensations are not helping SL/Ind being taken seriously as cricket nations. Balance is the key to winning at all levels in all conditions something sub-cont teams are struggling with.

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