Sri Lanka aiming for a golden encore at World Cup
Mumbai: Holding the distinction of being the only co-host team to have won the World Cup, Sri Lanka would be keen to take inspiration from that unforgettable title triumph in 1996 into the mega event starting on February 19.
Fifteen years ago Lanka were the co-hosts of cricket`s flagship event along with India and Pakistan while in the current edition the island nation is sharing that job with India and Bangladesh.
In 2007, Lanka who open their Cup campaign in Group A against minnows Canada on February 20 at Hambantota, finished second-best in the West Indies by losing to the mighty Australia in the final, an indication of their potential in the 50-over game.
A big advantage for the Kumar Sangakkara-led team, seeded seventh now, is that they would be playing all their preliminary Group A league matches barring one at home and everyone knows how tough they are in their familiar environs.
The emerald islanders have a classy batting line-up, in which Sangakkara, former skipper Mahela Jayawardene and the unorthodox Tillekratne Dilshan, with his "Dil-Scoops", are the pillars while Thilan Samaraweera brings a touch of solidity to it.
Angelo Mathews is a key lower order batsman with a very good strike rate who normally bats at no. 7 and the swing bowler should come good in familiar conditions.
The Lanka batting has flexibility and adaptability to trouble most bowling attacks, though there is some concern over the form of Chamara Kapugedara in the middle order while Samaraweera is not a power-hitter.
Lanka`s Cup-winning captain Arjuna Ranatunga has suggested that Chamara Kapugedara bat higher in the order, ahead of either Jayawardene or Sangakkara.
Speedster Lasith Malinga brings that "X" factor with his ability to take wickets both in the beginning and at `death` with his sling-arm action.
In wily veteran Muttiah Muralitharan, Lanka have the lone member of the triumphant squad of 1996. The off-spin great would be keen to bid adieu to international cricket on a super high note.
These two bowlers would be the main axis around which others, including part-timer Dilshan and unorthodox slow bowler Ajantha Mendis, would operate.
Lanka, in short, have plenty of bowling options. They are no slouch in the fielding department too is another huge plus point.
Recently, they have done consistently well in the ODIs, with a 2-0 victory over West Indies at home recently underlining their strength, and only India have had the wood on them.
Sri Lanka`s World Cup 15: Kumar Sangakkara (captain & wicketkeeper), Mahela Jayawardene, Tillekratne Dilshan, Upul Tharanga, Thilan Samaraweera, Chamara Silva, Chamara Kapugedera, Angelo Mathews, Thisara Perera, Nuwan Kulasekara, Lasith Malinga, Dilhara Fernando, Muttiah Muralitharan, Ajantha Mendis, Rangana Herath.
Sri Lanka`s preliminary group matches: vs Canada (Feb 20, Hambantota); vs Pakistan (Feb 26, Colombo); vs Kenya (Mar 1, colombo); vs Australia (Mar 5, Colombo); vs Zimbabwe (Mar 10, Kandy); vs New Zealand (Mar 18, Mumbai).