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April 28, 2010
Click here to hear Ian Chappell's take on Sri Lanka.
Sri Lanka have experimented with their limited-overs combination over the past year, but the core of the squad remains the same as the one that Kumar Sangakkara nearly took to glory in his maiden captaincy assignment at the 2009 World Twenty20.
Several promising allrounders have come along to back up the old guard, the most exciting of whom is Angelo Mathews, who has become a national regular in the shorter formats. Then there is the duo who impressed in the nearly forgotten ODI tri-series against India and Bangladesh early this year - offspinning allrounder Suraj Randiv, who Sri Lanka coach Trevor Bayliss picked as his side's best slow bowler in the tournament, and Thissara Perera, who showed his hitting skills and temperament during a stiff chase against India. The wicketkeeper-batsman Dinesh Chandimal also makes the squad on the basis of a strong showing in the domestic Twenty20 tournament, where he was the leading run-getter.
Only a handful of Sri Lankan players were regulars for their IPL sides, which means most of the squad will be well-rested going into the Caribbean competition. They are grouped with a tough New Zealand side and a Zimbabwe outfit whose recent tour of the West Indies makes them one of the better-prepared teams in the tournament.
Twenty20 pedigreeSri Lanka were virtually unstoppable in England during the previous World Twenty20, sweeping all before them to reach the finals unbeaten, but have had a rough time since, losing four of their past five matches. Like in the final against Pakistan last year, their top-order buckled in a winner-take-all Super Eights match against Australia in 2007, which led to their early elimination. Overall, they have a solid Twenty20 record, with a winning percentage only behind Pakistan and South Africa among the Test nations.
Strengths and weaknessesThe side is littered with match-winners, both with bat and ball. Their top three of Tillakaratne Dilshan, Mahela Jayawardene and Sangakkara match the best in the world, and their bowling is full of unorthodox and dangerous operators, including Lasith Malinga, Muttiah Muralitharan and Ajantha Mendis. One worry is that the supporting players to this bunch are generally inexperienced and have yet to prove themselves in a pressure-cooker tournament like the World Twenty20. The other concern is that Sri Lanka's fielding standards don't match the benchmark set by the likes of Australia and South Africa.
Key menMahela Jayawardene has been confirmed as the opening partner to Tillakaratne Dilshan, who lit up the 2009 World Twenty20 with his inventive strokeplay. Dilshan is coming off a lukewarm spell with Delhi Daredevils, and captain Sangakkara didn't hit the heights in either the IPL or the domestic Twenty20 competition. That increases the responsibility on Jayawardene, who showed during the second half of the IPL that classical shot-making doesn't rule out scoring at Twenty20 pace.
Lasith Malinga was among the best fast bowlers on display in the IPL: the unconventional action, the ability to bowl yorkers at will and a mix of slow bouncers and slow full tosses unnerved batsmen and was instrumental in taking Mumbai Indians to the top of the league. He hasn't played for Sri Lanka this year, and will make his comeback at Providence, the scene of his finest moment - the unprecedented four-in-four against South Africa in the 2007 World Cup.
X-factorIn a Sri Lankan team where most of the big names are specialists, Angelo Mathews is multi-skilled, one of the reasons he was an automatic pick for Kolkata Knight Riders in every match this season, where Twenty20 specialists Brad Hodge struggled to hold down a place. He shot into prominence with an outstanding bit of fielding at last year's World Twenty20, since when he has added steel to Sri Lanka's lower middle order and capably filled in the fifth bowler's slot.
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