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Cricket news - Ready reckoner: Sri Lanka
Why should you support them?
Simply because of the passion and the unique skills they bring to the table. Lasith Malinga might be playing his last big tournament, his pace might be on the wane, but his skills aren't. Sri Lanka are also one of those teams that tend to do well in big tournaments. In 1996, they trumped everyone who came and some who didn't, on their way to their maiden World Cup title. In 2007, it needed an Australian team at the peak of its powers to deny them, and history repeated in 2011 with Gautam Gambhir and MS Dhoni.
So what's their gameplan?
Having announced a left-field World Cup bound squad, the Sri Lankan selectors have loaded it with plenty of all-round options. Dimuth Karunaratne's job will be to provide stability at the top and allow the natural stroke makers in the team - Kusal Mendis, Kusal Perera, Angelo Mathews and Thisara Perera - a free hand in boosting the scoring rate. However, the essence of having plenty of all-round options will always mean a lack of specialist bowling options in the team. This might come back to bite them, considering two of their league games are scheduled in Bristol, and they then travel north (Leeds and Chester-le-Street) for four games at venues which traditionally favor swing bowlers. It also ideally means this will be one team that has been set-up with an eye to chase down totals rather than setting them.
Which player should you get excited about?
Not many believed Kusal Perera could be the hero in Sri Lanka's dramatic 304-run chase in the now famous Durban Test. That unbeaten 153 catapulted the left-handed wicket-keeper to fame and it co-incided with incumbent wicket-keeper Niroshan Dickwella's lack of runs. It wasn't a surprise that the 28-year old was the first-choice keeper for the mega tournament. At his best, Perera is a treat to watch and some of his shots resemble those of Sri Lanka's very own Matara marauder - Sanath Jayasuriya. His batting is still work in progress and he has on most occasions flattered to deceive, but if Kusal Perera can bring his 'A' game to the World Cup, Sri Lanka can look forward to a fast and breezy start.
Which of their fixtures should you not miss?
Sri Lanka v Pakistan - It is a record which isn't pleasing one bit if you're a Sri Lankan fan. 0-7 is what the head-to-head stands right now as far as games in the World Cup are concerned. But all streaks are there to be broken and Sri Lanka will believe that the 2019 edition will bring some happy tidings with it.
Sri Lanka v South Africa - This is one encounter that could go either way. Interspersed between the first and last meetings, the two teams have been involved in some real humdingers, be it the 1999 Northampton recovery, the 2003 D/L faux pas and or the 4 in 4 from Malinga in 2007 which nearly gave Sri Lanka a win in a match that was lost a long while ago.
What are their chances?
On paper, Sri Lanka shouldn't be counted to be one amongst the four semi-finalists. But cricket is not played merely on paper - the schedule presents the island nation with an excellent opportunity to crack the semi-final code. They start against New Zealand and then have games against Afghanistan, Pakistan and Bangladesh - three teams which play the same brand of cricket as them. By the time they run into some of the pre-tournament favourites, they could have well built up some serious momentum. For now though, making it to the semi-finals would be considered as quite an achievement.
Squad: Dimuth Karunaratne (c), Avishka Fernando, Lahiru Thirimanne, Angelo Mathews, Kusal Mendis, Dhananjaya de Silva, Kusal Perera (wk), Thisara Perera, Isuru Udana, Milinda Siriwardana, Jeevan Mendis, Jeffrey Vandersay, Suranga Lakmal, Lasith Malinga and Nuwan Pradeep
June 1 - v New Zealand, Sophia Gardens, Cardiff [D]
June 4 - v Afghanistan, Sophia Gardens, Cardiff [D]
June 7 - v Pakistan, County Ground, Bristol [D]
June 11 - v Bangladesh, County Ground, Bristol [D]
June 15 - v Australia, Kennington Oval, London [D]
June 21 - v England, Headingley, Leeds [D]
June 28 - v South Africa, Riverside Ground, Chester-le-Street [D]
July 1 - v West Indies, Riverside Ground, Chester-le-Street [D]
July 6 - v India, Headingley, Leeds [D]
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