Change is inevitable, but the transformation is not always smooth. Some teams struggle more than the others in revamping their resources. Sri Lanka is one such team, going into the Asia Cup and World T20. In the coming months Sri Lanka needs to deal with a lot of inexperience and raw talent.
In this fraught period, Sri Lanka will look up to its two most experienced stalwarts –Lasith Malinga and Tilakaratne Dilshan. Both are slowly heading towards the fag end of their cricketing careers but still hold the key for the side’s success in the shorter form of the game.
For long, Dilshan has lived under the shadows of Mahela and Sangakkara. He had the freedom to go after the bowlers with Sanga and Mahela to follow. But now, though the T20 format doesn’t give you the time, it is important for Dilshan to stick around for a while. Dilshan, with 70 T20 caps, is one of the most experienced T20 opener going around and Lanka will look up to him for the solid starts.
“My ambition is to continue playing ODI and T20 cricket,” Dilshan had said last year. “With my present form and fitness I guess I can easily play for another 2-3 years, even till the next World Cup in 2019”.
Definitely, in terms fitness and agility he is still the best bet in the Sri Lanka squad and age hasn’t stopped him from scoring the big runs. In the last two years he has scored at an average of 41 and 52, amassing more than 2000 runs, in ODIs. Even at the age of 39, the much underrated opener is undoubtedly the vital cog in the Lankan scheme of things.
Unlike Dilshan, the Lankan T20 skipper has been struggling for fitness. The knee injury has kept him out of cricket for months. He last played in November against West Indies and what impact he will be able to make is yet to be seen. 2015 wasn’t a great year for Malinga, with him taking part in only 15 ODI’s and 4 T20 internationals. Repeated Injuries have kept him out of action for a longer time and with age, the pace has also gone down significantly.
Even last year, prior to the ODI World Cup, Malinga was out of action due to an ankle injury and it was evident during the World Cup that he took some time to get into his groove. In that sense, the Asia cup will act as a dress rehearsal for the world’s most dangerous T20 bowler going into the World Cup.
The injury concern isn’t the only challenge that Malinga faces. Leading a young side can be a challenge in itself. “If you look at the team, we have several youngsters and it’s good. They will bring in lots of new energy into the side. But I hope the seniors will step in and play a leading role. This will make the life of these youngsters easy,” he had said recently. But in reality, Sri Lanka has only a few experienced players in its ranks and the pressure is on them to perform.
In 2014, under the leadership of Malinga, Sri Lanka was able to give Mahela and Sanga a fitting farewell by winning the T20 World Cup, and one of the most important factor of that final victory against India was the death bowling from Malinga and Kulasekara. They repeatedly bowled their yorkers and kept a check on Kohli and Dhoni. With Kulasekara also making a comeback, it has to be seen if the duo can reproduce the magic after getting two years older.
For some time now, the team has been very much dependant on Mathews in all formats. Going by Dilshan’s recent good form in the Sri Lankan domestic T20 league – Super T20 Provincial, it is expected that the opener will shoulder that burden of holding up the top order and let Mathews play his natural game.
In the bowling department, much hinges on the fitness of the skipper. If he is able to put in those fiery spells, then Sri Lanka will come up as a formidable opponent in the coming months.