Sri Lanka XI
ESPNcricinfo picks the best Test teams of all time

The XI

Eleven to take on the world

The three best batsmen and one of the spinners were easy picks. What about the others?

Sa'adi Thawfeeq

April 1, 2010

Comments: 103 | Text size: A | A

Muttiah Muralitharan chats with Arjuna Ranatunga and Aravinda de Silva during a net session at Lord's, May 9, 2006
The class of 96: Murali, Ranatunga and Aravinda, part of the victorious World Cup campaign, are in the all-time XI © Getty Images

How dearly the national selectors would love to have a Cricinfo jury to help them pick the national teams, going by how straightforward the selection of Sri Lanka's all-time XI turned out to be.

The middle order of Kumar Sangakkara, Aravinda de Silva and Mahela Jayawardene, and champion spinner Muttiah Muralitharan, were all unanimous picks, with 10 votes apiece.

Left-arm spinner Ajit de Silva and legspinner DS de Silva were tied for the spot of Muralitharan's spin partner; but with Murali dominating from one end and Chaminda Vaas, whose nine votes justify his place as the spearhead of the bowling attack, from the other, you could assume the three other bowlers in the XI would have little to do.

Rumesh Ratnayake, with a slinging action in the Jeff Thomson mould and an ability to cause discomfort to batsmen, gets the nod ahead of a similar bowler, Lasith Malinga. Ashantha de Mel makes up the three-pronged pace attack ahead of Ravi Ratnayeke.

With former captain Arjuna Ranatunga taking up his customary position at No. 6, the batting looks quite a strong and attractive line-up. Which brings us to the question of the wicketkeeper. Having three seamers (with Vaas in the allrounder role) and two spinners means Sangakkara has to perform the duties behind the stumps. With the advent of Twenty20 cricket, the joy of wicketkeeping has largely been lost, with emphasis being laid on a batting wicketkeeper rather than a wicketkeeper-batsman. And so there is no place for excellent glovemen like Mahes Goonatilleke or Prasanna Jayawardene, whose lightning-fast reflexes have always been a joy to watch, whether standing up to a spinner or back to a fast bowler.

The XI

Marvan Atapattu
"He matured in his thirties into a top-class batsman. Technically he had no peer in Sri Lanka and his unbreakable concentration helped him to six double-hundreds. His off-side play was his strongest suit, and his skill against the slower bowlers was exquisite." Charlie Austin

Sanath Jayasuriya
"Brutality, venom and fury are words that have been attached to Jayasuriya's batting, yet they are not apt. His work always seemed cheerful… he has been underestimated. Nor has he been a mere smash-and-grab man. To the contrary he has been enough of a cricketer to collect steadily once the field had been pushed back; enough of a batsman to know that the chance to compile a big total does not come every day." Peter Roebuck

Kumar Sangakkara
"To be the skipper, a key batsman and wicketkeeper (when needed) and an articulate speaker on and off the field all rolled into one, he is an allrounder par excellence - a rara avis." Mahinda Wijesinghe

Aravinda de Silva
"Arguably the most innovative and brilliant batsman produced in Sri Lanka after the island attained Test status, though his final statistics do not reflect the awesome talent he possessed. He was an artist not an artisan." Mahinda Wijesinghe

Mahela Jayawardene
"Of all the batting heroes Sri Lanka has produced - the Sathasivams, the Aravindas and Jayasuriyas - Mahela seems to be the one destined to rewrite all the records... As a batsman he is blessed with every stroke imaginable. The defence, the drive, the signature flick off the leg and hip, the deft cut and pull. Mahela combines perfectly touch and power, which is why he is successful in all formats of the game, against both pace and spin." Kumar Sangakkara

Arjuna Ranatunga
"The captain who not only led Sri Lanka to a clean sweep of the 1996 World Cup but also inculcated and left behind a sense of pride in his team members and those who followed. A street fighter who stood for a cause, and by his men, which possibly affected his performances on the field." Mahinda Wijesinghe

Chaminda Vaas
"When you realise that pace is just one of the components of fast bowling, you start thinking about line, length, the conditions. For Chaminda Vaas that came early in his career. That's the reason he has had so much success... More than the wickets he has taken I am amazed at his fitness levels and the way he has changed his bowling action over the years." Javagal Srinath

Rumesh Ratnayake
"A fast-medium bowler during an era when Sri Lanka was undermanned, he troubled batsmen and was the spearhead in a couple of Sri Lankan triumphs, while supporting his main contribution with solid fielding and hard-hitting batting." Michael Roberts

Ashantha de Mel
"The most complete, most aggressive, best right-arm fast bowler Sri Lanka has produced since achieving Test status. He had the best action for any Sri Lankan fast bowler to date. Genuinely quick, and could also move the ball both ways. His aggression was controlled to genuinely intimidate. A hard-hitting, technically sound middle-order batsman who could be classified as an allrounder." Ranil Abeynaike

Muttiah Muralitharan
"Muttiah Muralitharan's greatness lies in the fact that even when batsmen read him, there is little they can do to keep him out. It is possible to say of him, as Albert Einstein did in another context, that generations to come will scarce believe that such a one as this walked upon this earth." Suresh Menon

Somachandra de Silva
"The best legspin/googly bowler produced by Sri Lanka since attaining Test status and their second best spinner after Muttiah Muralitharan. No other spinner barring Murali has been as accurate. Also had a sound technique and good temperament as a batsman, and a thoroughly professional approach to the game overall." Ranil Abeynaike

Cricinfo readers' XI
We invited readers to vote on the nominees in each segment. Here's who they picked.
Sanath Jayasuriya, Marvan Atapattu, Kumar Sangakkara, Aravinda de Silva, Mahela Jayawardene, Arjuna Ranatunga, Chaminda Vaas, Lasith Malinga, Rumesh Ratnayake, Muttiah Muralitharan, Ajantha Mendis.

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Posted by   on (April 4, 2010, 23:54 GMT)

Coincidently when the All-time XI: Sri Lanka picked Sanga for the wicket keeping duties, the kings XI in IPL dropped Sanga from the Wicket Keeping duties. If the specialist keeper can bat well, then that is a bonus. Malinga was dropped by All-time XI: Sri Lanka when he is wearing the purple cap (Award to the bowler with highest number of wickets) in the IPL. In my opinion, Ashantha be replaced with Mahes (WK) and Rumesh be replaced with Malinga. Somachandra or Ajith, this is a toss of a coin, both will complement Murali. I still think Ajith and Murali will form a right arm and left arm combination just like Malinga and Vaas. 4 bowlers is Sri Lanka's successful formula. Each nation has their own formula of bowlers (WI 5 quick's, Aus 3 quick's and 1 spinner etc.). Santah/Aravinda can bowl. If we have 4 bowlers, this is less than 25 overs per day per bowler. With plenty of variety (Malinga left arm quick, Vaas right arm swing, Murali right are off spin, Ajith left arm orthodox spin).

Posted by ceyloncricket on (April 4, 2010, 9:54 GMT)

How did they leave out Ajit De Silva. He is top class

Posted by HLANGL on (April 4, 2010, 6:42 GMT)

How someone can discard the undisputed best batsman from Sri Lanka in pre-De Silva era (the era before Aravinda came into prominence I mean) is beyond me. True, the legendary Mahadevan Sathasivam wouldn't have played any tests, but is it his fault ? Can you keep this man out from all time SL XI ?. Forget about all others much hyped (but certainly not upto the level of hype) pre-test era players like Stanley Jayasinghe, Micheal Thissera, .... You may even forget the likes of Roy Dias, Duleep Mendis, ... who may have played a bit of test & ODI cricket, would have been clearly the better players we had during their times, YET no way the best the world had during their times. There may have been few older yet very decent ones in FC De Seram, CI Gunasekara, Clive Inman & Anura Tennakoon, but since this would (supposed to) be the all time best XI for SL, you may forget them too. But I'm not sure anyone can do the same for true legend S'sivam, to me the Steve Tikolo of then Ceylonese Cricket.

Posted by IanJF on (April 3, 2010, 13:46 GMT)

Dear "mykey_d" FYI This was my team in an earlier post, I was just trying to make a point clear which certainly you havent grasped.. 1.Roy Dias 2.Jayasuriya 3.Sangakkara 4.A.De silva 5.Mahela J 6.Duleep Mendis 7. Arjuna 8.Vass 9.R.Ratnayake 10.Muralitahran 11.D.S.De silva

Posted by mykey_d on (April 3, 2010, 9:51 GMT)

If you are posting your comments and are (at least) in your early 30s try not to romanticise the past. This is a best XI not a walk through the pages of history. The lures of yesteryear do not make up for mediocrity. IanJF, just stick to what you know, which clearly is not picking a cricket team nor making jokes.

Posted by waspsting on (April 2, 2010, 17:40 GMT)

1st off - the chemistry is wrong. Since Murali does so much of the bowling work, is having five bowlers justified? IMO, no. And since the rest of the bowling isn't too great (IOW - its a comparitively weak team to other all time teams) - its MUCH BETTER to go in with 6 batsmen. I'd have Sangakarra as a pure batsmen and add a P. Jayawardena as keeper. for bowling - three pacers and Murali, and who to back up Murali's spin? I'd go with part timers. Jayasuria, Aravinda and Dilshan can all be decent tweakers (don't know the other spinners nominated, but they all have poor records). In any case, IT DOESN'T MATTER much as Murali's the key. Finally, Ranatunga I disagree with. He scored 4 centuries in about a 100 tests - thats not good enough. Tillakartne was a much better player

Posted by NALINWIJ on (April 2, 2010, 13:47 GMT)

Using the selection formula of 5batsman,WK,3pacemen,2spinners I submitted a team that is the same as Crickinfo readers XI but not the team selected by jury. Interestingly some of the jurors picked only 4 bowlers. The selection process is flawed when selecting the BEST TEAM. The formula makes it difficult to pick a specialist WK as 6 batsmen are needed and there is no genuine allrounder. This necessitates selection of SANGA as a WKbatsman. Only solution was to use 3 pacemen, 1spinner and parttimers such as Sanath and Aravinda. Prasanna is a world class WK with batting average of 30 and Sanga bats better when he is not WK. Arjuna deserves his spot but Thilan could be substituted as he can bowl spin. Apart from Vaas and Murali there is no great bowler and DeMel and DS will be the bowlers unlikely to be picked in a future XI. MY revised team 1.Sanath 2.Marvan 3.Sanga 4.Aravinda 5.Mahela 6.Arjuna or Thilan 7.Prasanna [WK] 8.Vaas 9.Rumesh 10.Malinga 11.Murali 12.Mendis.

Posted by   on (April 2, 2010, 13:25 GMT)

@ sachintha81 - All i got to say about you is that cricket was not played this much intensively as well as professionally so My friend hate to say but you have to admit that you are in love with the good old days but the reality is that they are not good & probably may not make in to todays 11 in any case

Posted by CeaserNeo on (April 2, 2010, 13:08 GMT)

I doubt about Sanga as Keeper. He is great player but as Keeper he is worst. This is my personal feeling. But remember if he doesn't miss chance of stumping for Symond in SF of WC'03 know that.

Posted by Under-Arm-Aussie on (April 2, 2010, 9:57 GMT)

No matter what is argued on these pages the fact remains that this is a hugely gifted team. I personally believe Jayawardene could walk into any team of the past 10 years - including Australia's and India's. To my mind there is no question about Ranatunga being the best captain for Sri Lanka. He single-handedly brought strength of character and belief to the Sri Lankan nation - not just the team that won a world cup. He got under the noses of opposition teams who had previously regarded Sri Lanka and Sri Lankans as a soft touch. He may not be popular and he may not have the cricket brain of others around him but he could bat and he was a leader amongst men. I love the way the Sri Lanka team goes about its business. They must be the most respected and well liked teams in the game.

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Sri Lanka Jury

Ranil Abeynaike
Former left-arm spinner and middle-order batsman. Captained Sri Lanka A against Australia in 1983. Former curator at the SSC in Colombo and national curator and school coach. Currently a commentator.
XI: Jayasuriya, Atapattu, Sangakkara, Jayawardene, Aravinda de Silva, Ranatunga, Somachandra de Silva, de Mel, Vaas, Rumesh Ratnayake, Muralitharan
Russel Arnold
Russel Arnold
Played 44 Tests and 180 ODIs for Sri Lanka between 1997 and 2007 as an opener, lower middle-order batsman and offbreak bowler. Now a commentator and columnist.
XI: Atapattu, Jayasuriya, Dias, Sangakkara, Aravinda De Silva, Jayawardene, Ranatunga, Vaas, Rumesh Ratnayake, Muralitharan, Malinga
Ranjit Fernando
Ranjit Fernando
Played ODIs for Sri Lanka in the 1975 World Cup. After retirement, has served as an administrator, national coach, selector and manager. Currently a commentator.
XI: Jayasuriya, Atapattu, Dias, Aravinda De Silva, Jayawardene, Sangakkara, Ranatunga, Vaas, Somachandra de Silva, Rumesh Ratnayake, Muralitharan
Ranjan Madugalle
Ranjan Madugalle
Played 21 Tests (in two of which he captained) and 63 ODIs between 1979 and 1988. Was appointed an ICC match referee in 1993, and in 2001 was appointed the first chief referee.
XI: Jayasuriya, Atapattu, Dias, Aravinda De Silva, Jayawardene, Sangakkara, Ravi Ratnayeke, Somachandra de Silva, Vaas, Rumesh Ratnayake, Muralitharan
Palitha Perera
Palitha Perera
Journalist and cricket commentator since 1963; widely held to be Sri Lanka's first to commentate in Sinhala.
XI: Atapattu, Jayasuriya, Sangakkara, Aravinda de Silva, Jayawardene, Gurusinha, Ranatunga, Vass, Rumesh Ratnayake, Muralitharan, Ajit de Silva
Michael Roberts
Michael Roberts
Author-compiler of the anthology, Essaying Cricket: Sri Lanka and Beyond. Historian and former teacher at Peradeniya University and Adelaide University.
XI: Wettimuny, Dilshan, Dias, Aravinda de Silva, Jayawardene, Sangakkara, Ranatunga, Rumesh Ratnayake, de Mel, Ajit de Silva, Muralitharan
Sa'adi Thawfeeq
Sa'adi Thawfeeq
Among Sri Lanka's most senior sports journalists. Has covered over 125 Test matches played by Sri Lanka, including all their home Tests. Presently sports editor of the Nation newspaper.
XI: Jayasuriya, Atapattu, Sangakkara, Aravinda de Silva, Jayawardene, Ranatunga, Goonatilleke, Vaas, de Mel, Muralitharan, Malinga
Sidath Wettimuny
Sidath Wettimuny
Scored Sri Lanka's first Test century, against Pakistan. Served as a match referee after retirement and also as Sri Lanka's chairman of selectors.
XI: Atapattu, Jayasuriya, Aravinda de Silva, Dias, Jayawardene, Sangakkara, Goonatilleke, Vaas, de Mel, Ajit de Silva, Muralitharan
Mahinda Wijesinghe
Mahinda Wijesinghe
Journalist. Author of Sri Lanka Cricket - At the High Table. Helped develop a device used in experiments to prove the legality of Muttiah Muralitharan's bowling action.
XI: Atapattu, Jayasuriya, Aravinda de Silva, Dias, Jayawardene, Sangakkara, Ranatunga, Ravi Ratnayeke, Vaas, Rumesh Ratnayake, Muralitharan
Daminda Wijesuriya
Daminda Wijesuriya
Professional sportswriter for the last 20 years. Has covered more than 90 Test matches and over 200 ODIs in Sri Lanka and overseas. Sports editor of a leading national daily newspaper in Sri Lanka for the last 15 years.
XI: Atapattu, Jayasuriya, Sangakkara, Jayawardene, Aravinda de Silva, Ranatunga, Vaas, de Mel, Rumesh Ratnayake, Mendis, Muralitharan

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