However, their form leading up to the tournament so far has been mixed, to say the least. While they won the One-Day International tri-series featuring Bangladesh and Zimbabwe before the Nidahas Trophy Twenty20 International tri-series, they suffered a 5-0 ODI drubbing at the hands of Pakistan prior to that and also lost 2-1 in a three-match ODI series to India.
They also recently suffered a 3-2 ODI series loss at home to South Africa despite beating the hosts 2-0 in a two-match Test series just prior to that. It’s safe to say they don’t come into the tournament in the best of form, but they are an Asian cricket heavyweight and cannot be discounted.
Placed in Group B alongside Bangladesh and Afghanistan, Sri Lanka will have to be at their best to make it out of the group. Here is a SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats) analysis of Sri Lanka:
Strengths – The side will see several key players return to the national fold. Lasith Malinga, who hasn’t represented Sri Lanka for over a year now, makes a comeback. Fast bowler Dushmantha Chameera, and middle-order batsman Dhananjaya de Silva (both injured) will also be valuable additions to the team.
Sri Lanka have had key players missing in crucial series in recent times and coach Chandika Hathurusingha will be hoping that having a near-full strength squad – Dinesh Chandimal will not be part of the tournament due to a broken finger – will see a revival of the island nation’s ODI fortunes.
Weaknesses – One of Sri Lanka’s biggest issues of late has been the inability to make the most of the Powerplay as well as being unable to bat out the full 50 overs. But perhaps nothing beats their struggles in the field. In fact, it won’t be a stretch to say that they are one of the weakest fielding sides in the tournament.
Skipper Angelo Mathews had slammed his side’s ineptitude in the field after the second ODI against South Africa, stating that his teammates fielded like a “bunch of schoolboys”. Given the strength of their group as well as the challenges that await in the knockout stages, improving in the field is a must.
Opportunities – As mentioned earlier, this tournament will be the first time in a while that Sri Lanka will field a near full-strength side. While not all of their struggles can be attributed to key personnel not being a part of the squad, the best players being available for a big tournament always helps.
Sri Lanka’s recent form in limited-overs series has been nothing to write home about. The Asia Cup 2018 could well be a chance for the struggling team to exorcise their past demons and start afresh ahead of the 2019 World Cup.
Threats – The biggest danger posed to Sri Lanka would be their group members. Bangladesh have become a competitive side in limited overs cricket in recent years whereas Afghanistan, have proven match-winners in the side as well as a plethora of spinners who will be dangerous in Dubai’s conditions.
However, there’s also the chance that Sri Lanka could find themselves undone by all the mistakes they have made previously. Their squad is a good one but given the number of returns taking place, question marks remain over their ability to immediately gel as a unit as well as whether these returning stars can hit the ground running, something that is necessary in a tournament this short.
Sri Lanka squad: Angelo Mathews (Captain), Kusal Perera, Kusal Mendis, Upul Tharanga, Danushka Gunathilake, Niroshan Dickwella, Thisara Perera, Dasun Shanaka, Dhanajaya de Silva, Akila Dhananjaya, Dilruwan Perera, Amila Aponso, Kasun Rajitha, Suranga Lakmal, Dusmantha Chameera, Lasith Malinga.
First Published: September 15, 2018, 9:01 AM IST