In-form players will make the difference: Moody
Tom Moody, Sri Lanka's coach, has singled out Upul Tharanga, Chamara Silva and Lasith Malinga as key members of Sri Lanka's World Cup campaign. According to Moody, the trio has come through with some incredible performances over the last 12 to 18 months that have given Sri Lanka the right balance in the batting and bowling departments.
"Tharanga's introduction to international cricket has been quite stunning," said Moody before embarking on his first World Cup as coach. "A young 21-year-old coming into the set-up from nowhere and doing what he's done in both forms of the game is absolutely impressive. He is one who is quite likely to have a very successful World Cup."
Tharanga, a left-handed opener, broke into international cricket 19 months ago and has made rapid strides, as his six centuries in 43 ODIs indicates. Five of those came in 2006, a year in which he was one of four Sri Lankan batsmen to reach 1000 calendar runs.
Moody felt the development of Silva, a right-handed middle-order batsman, was simply 'stunning'. "He came from a pair in his first Test to back that up with a magnificent Test hundred, a big hundred. It was the same when he got his opportunity in the one-day arena. It hasn't taken him too many goals to get there.
"I'll never forget the day when he was involved in a Twenty20 practice match about four months ago at the SSC. I've never seen this guy bat before and I asked, 'Who is this batting?' I just couldn't believe that he wasn't involved in any form for Sri Lanka A or the national teams. He took his chances in the A team, scored runs and the rest is history. He's got stunning talent and he's got some exciting years ahead of him."
Moody admitted that the biggest concern he had a month ago was the middle order, but that the performances of Silva has dispelled all doubts.
On Malinga, he of the slinging action and searing toe-crushers, Moody said: "Lasith Malinga's development has been incredible and impressive. He also could have a huge impact in this World Cup". Malinga, 23, took 30 ODI wickets from 18 matches last year, and Moody felt his ability to generate extra pace, get early breakthroughs and then return towards the latter part of the innings to stifle the run-rate brought a new dimension to the Sri Lankan bowling line-up and given captain Mahela Jayawardene more options.
There were also words of confidence for the more experienced players in the side, including Sanath Jayasuriya - "There's no reason why he cannot have a World Cup like he had in 1996. He's focused, his technique is better than it's ever been, he's fit and he's hungry" - Kumar Sangakkara - "Sanga's consistency in both forms of the game and his focus and concentration is something that we all should admire" - and Mahela Jayawardene, struggling for runs but still a vital member of the side.
"Sanga, Mahela, Silva, all could have a big World Cup and make a difference," Moody added. "It won't be one player that will help Sri Lanka have a successful World Cup campaign. All these players will have to play an important role in that success.