Sri Lanka would hope their transition from the old generation to the new is complete when they begin their ICC T20 World Cup campaign against Namibia here later on Monday.
The former champions, who are seeking to qualify for the ‘Super 12’, will get a perfect opportunity to showcase the skills of the new generation even though the build-up to the mega event hasn’t been great.
It has been a transitional period for Sri Lanka over the past few years. Since the 2015 World Cup, they’ve seen the likes of Kumar Sangakkara, Mahela Jayawardene, Tillakaratne Dilshan, Rangana Herath, Lasith Malinga, Nuwan Kulasekara and Thisara Perera retire. Given all seven featured in the T20 World Cup-winning side of 2014, that’s a list of departures any country would struggle to adjust to.
The cricket World Cup runners-up in 2007 and 2011, T20 World Cup finalists in 2012 and winners in 2014, Sri Lanka have hit a bad patch of late, the reason why they find themselves in the ‘First Round’ of the T20 World Cup rather than as automatic qualifiers for the ‘Super 12’.
The islanders have suffered the most losses for any team in the shortest format of the game since the last T20 World Cup in 2016. They suffered a major setback when Niroshan Dickwella, Kusal Mendis and Danushka Gunathilaka were served year-long suspensions for breaching the bio-secure bubble in England.
However, their absence can be looked at as another opportunity for Sri Lanka’s youngsters to step up on the big stage. The 24-year-old Charith Asalanka, who was ‘Player of the Series’ in Sri Lanka’s recent ODI series win over South Africa and Avishka Fernando, who has averaged 119.5 across four practice matches in the lead-up to the tournament, are some of the names who could emerge from this tournament.
Besides, there’s Kamindu Mendis, who can bowl with both arms and hit the ball a long way, and seamer Chamika Karunaratne who can also hit the ball a long way. There has also been the return to the fray for proven performers like Dinesh Chandimal and Kusal Perera, making an experienced core alongside captain Dasun Shana, all-rounder Dhananjaya De Silva and speedster Dushmantha Chameera.
Also, Sri Lanka have the services of Wanindu Hasaranga, who is second on the ICC T20I bowling rankings. Hasaranga is averaging 13.15 with the ball in T20Is this year while leaking just 5.59 runs per over. There’s not a team in the world looking forward to facing him.
The T20 World Cup has always been Sri Lanka’s happy hunting ground. Their 22 Men’s T20 World Cup match wins are the most for any nation in the tournament’s history. They have been the team to beat with more appearances in the final than any nation.