The excitement is palpable as one of the most enthralling tournaments in world cricket is almost upon us. The ICC T20I World Cup gets underway this month, and we preview the 16 teams that will be competing to lift the famous trophy. Here we have the lowdown on Sri Lanka.

The last 12 months have been filled with plenty of turbulence and turmoil for Sri Lanka, who will have to make it through a tricky group just to qualify for the Super 12 phase. The 2014 ICC World T20 champions are a team in transition at the moment. And thanks to a revolving door of players and captains, there are a number of question marks surrounding them heading into this month’s tournament. But with expectations low and the conditions expected to suit them a lot more than some other teams, this youthful Sri Lanka team could yet spring a few surprises under the charge of Mickey Arthur.

Recent Form

Sri Lanka’s recent form makes for a rather grim reading. They have only managed to win three of their last 17 T20I matches, and they have won only one of their six series in the format over the last two years. That series win came against India though. And it will no doubt have given them a lot of confidence, even though India were without the majority of their key players. Sri Lanka’s most recent bilateral series saw them suffer a 3-0 whitewash at home to South Africa. So they go into the T20I World Cup without any sort of momentum on their side.

Biggest Strength

Sri Lanka’s biggest strength is no doubt their bowling attack. Wanindu Hasaranga has been one of the breakout stars of the year, and his performances will certainly will be crucial to their hopes. He will be supported by pace bowler Dushmantha Chameera, mystery spinner Maheesh Theekshana and uncapped spinner Praveen Jayawickrama.

Biggest Weakness

The biggest weakness of this Sri Lanka team is a toss up between their batting woes and the farcical politics that have reached new levels this year. The latter requires a whole research paper of its own, so for now we will focus on the former. Sri Lanka’s batting order looks frail at best. And they have only managed to record a score of 150+ once this year. In fact, they have failed to reach the 130 run mark in six of their completed innings this year. That is a very worrying trend going into the World Cup, and one that they will need to address very quickly.

Sri Lanka have made the shrewd decision to rope in Mahela Jayawardene as a consultant for the first round of the tournament. And his experience as a coach and a legendary batsman will certainly be invaluable to their young batters.

Sri Lanka has won more games than any other team in the history of the
ICC T20 World Cup 

What the media are saying

Considering the fact that two weeks ago the Sri Lanka media accused the players of deliberately underperforming, it is fair to say that expectations are very low. But failure to make the Super 12 would be an absolute disaster for the island nation.

Leading into this tournament Wanindu Hasaranga is ranked the second best bowler in the ICC’s T20I rankings

Star Player

Not a lot of people will have known the name Wanindu Hasaranga before the start of the year. But after a stellar 2021, the legspinner is set to play a key role in Sri Lanka’s bid to win the T20I World Cup this month. Only three players in the world have taken more T20I wickets this year than Hasaranga (20), and they have all played more games than him. The 24 year old also has an excellent economy rate of just 6.57 in T20I cricket and is a handy lower order batsman. He will also go into the World Cup after a stint at the IPL with the Royal Challengers Bangalore which will give him the chance to further hone his skills. And the conditions in the UAE will certainly suit him.

Kamindu Mendis already has 4 T20I half-centuries to his name already and a High score of 99* at just aged 23 

Keep an eye on…

Kamindu Mendis is definitely a name to keep an eye on. The all-rounder made waves in September with his ambidextrous bowling against South Africa. In addition to being able to bowl with both hands, Mendis is also a capable batsman and a gun fielder. He has only played nine international games for Sri Lanka so far, but he has managed to show glimpses of his quality with the bat. He goes into the World Cup on the back of his impressive performances in the SLC Invitational T20 League. Still only 23, Mendis has great potential. And he could be set to explode in the UAE this month.

Projected XI

Avishka Fernando, Kusal Perera, Dananjaya De Silva, Bhanuka Rajapaksa, Dinesh Chandimal (wk), Kamindu Mendis, Dasun Shanaka (c), Chamika Karunathna, Wanindu Hasaranga, Dushmantha Chameera, Maheesh Theekshana

Prediction

With Sri Lanka currently languishing in tenth place in the ICC rankings, chances of them winning the T20I World Cup are very slim. Even though anything can happen in T20I cricket, this unsettled Sri Lanka team is unlikely to ruffle any feathers at the tournament. While they should be able to overcome the challenge of Ireland, Namibia and the Netherlands, and qualify for the main tournament, their chances of making the semi-finals appear to be very slim. A Super 12 exit likely awaits them.