Sri Lanka were one of the teams that were also an integral part of the inaugural 1975 World Cup. Sri Lanka was an Associate Member of the ICC until 1981 when they became a full member and also acquired the status of a test side.
Sri Lanka have been a nation that may not be spoken about much but they have achieved a lot of feats in their history. Be it the 1996 World Cup, the 2014 T20 World Cup, or the two consecutive World Cup finals of 2007 and 2011.
As far as the ICC rankings are concerned, Sri Lanka became 1st in the T20I rankings on 29 September 2012 but they have only managed to be the second-best in ranking when it comes to the Tests and the ODIs. However, after 2014, when the last set of recognized stars parted ways with the international format, Sri Lanka hasn't managed to get back at the top again.
While a lot of people blame the players, there is also an unspoken concern that hasn't received enough light but still plays a huge role in the Lions' downfall as a cricketing nation.
Let's dive deep to know more about what and why has Sri Lanka failed to climb up to the status they once ascertained in World Cricket.
Sri Lanka had a brilliant squad in the 1996 World Cup led by Arjuna Ranatunga, a perfectly concocted plan as to how to clinch the World Cup and stun every other nation in the world.
Influential leaders taking charge
Did you know that out of the 21 players who have over 1000 runs in World Cups, five are Sri Lankan, the most by a nation. The second-best in this category are India and Australia with three batsmen each.
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Mind it, it is not just a record but it shows how good Sri Lanka were once. Kumar Sangakkara may be the highest in terms of runs but it was Sanath Jayasuriya who was instrumental in laying the foundation for the Lankan lions to become a formidable side in World Cricket.
Sanath Jayasuriya became the captain of the Sri Lankan side in 1998 and his tenure as the skipper continued until 2003. In that time he had a win percentage of 55.56, joint-third best with Marvan Atapattu.
However, Jayasuriya led the side for almost double the number Atapattu managed. Note: The first position is held by Ravi Ratnayeke who had a win percentage of 100. Calm down, he led the side for just one match. The second position is taken by Sangakkara who had a win percentage of 65.85 (In 45 ODIs), making the WK-batsman the most successful skipper for Sri Lanka in ODIs.
Top captains for Sri Lanka in ODIs (win % wise)
It shows how successful Jayasuriya was, not just in leading the side for almost 120 ODIs but also because of his explosive hitting. The opener was one of the first players who commenced a trend of thrashing the bowlers in the first 15-20 overs of an ODI, a span where the other nations took time to settle in. This was a period in Sri Lankan Cricket that is still cherished and will continue to be cherished.
A road of ups and downs
Once Sangakkara took the reigns of the National team, Sri Lanka had one of their best squads and were always in the race to win titles.
However, the two final losses depict that they were just unfortunate on multiple occasions, not because they were poor but because of the other team performing better.
Two of the biggest pillars in Sri Lankan cricket, Mahela Jayawardene and Kumar Sangakkara retired from ODI (18 March 2015) and T20I (6 April 2014) format on the same day, with Sangakkara playing another year of test cricket.
The beginning of the downfall and its progression
A lot of social and political issues played an enormous role in tearing apart Sri Lanka's reputation as a cricket-playing nation. Issues were also raised as some or a significant number of Tamilians weren't permitted or encouraged to take cricket as a career option, calling it "unreliable".
Issues started to pile up after Sri Lanka were vanquished in an exasperating fashion against England, and the former Sri Lankan captain Kumar Sangakkara called their performance a group of "novices," who weren't mentally and technically capable of competing against the likes of Joe Root and co.
The peak of resentment
After continuous disappointing results in series and ICC tournaments, issues were made public and that's when the alleged incompetence of the Sri Lankan board was called out. Not just the players but ex-players and legends who played for Sri Lanka also supported the fact that decisions were not based only on the welfare of sports but also involved some political agendas.
Subsequently, in February 2021, Sri Lanka legend and the only bowler to take 800 test wickets, Muttiah Muralitharan along with several ex-players and administrators seemed a court order for the government to appoint a committee independent of any pressure and possessing the authority to make decisions for reforming future of cricket in Sri Lanka.
"The root cause of the decline of Sri Lankan cricket is its poor governance driven through the flawed constitution of SLC (Sri Lanka Cricket)," the petitioners said in a statement.
"It is severely conflicted between club and country. This system encourages the office bearers to take decisions mostly to satisfy its voter base, causing the playing standards of Sri Lankan cricket to deteriorate."- said the petitioners.
They also spoke about the concern to the ICC. "International cricket is a small pond and cricket gains nothing to see one of its most storied full members, Sri Lanka, wither into oblivion," the petitioners said while asking the International Cricket Council to provide time, space, expertise, and guidance for the creation of a new governance system.
What are your thoughts? Do you think Sri Lanka will reach the glory they once managed? Will they bounce back in the upcoming ICC World T20I this year? Let us know your thoughts via our social media handles.
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Cover Credits: CricketCountry