Sri Lanka have a side to win the World Cup (Team Profile, World Cup Countdown)

February 6th, 2011 - 4:10 pm ICT by IANS  

Kumar Sangakkara By Avishek Roy
New Delhi, Feb 6 (IANS) A star-studded line-up and a shrewd captain make Sri Lanka favourites to win the World Cup a second time in the sub-continent, having done it in 1996 to spark a cricketing renaissance in the Island nation.Most of the players of this generation in Sri Lanka took to cricket inspired by that famous victory of Arjuna Ranatunga’s team. Muttiah Muralitharan is the lone survivor from that team. The veteran off-spinner, who holds the record for the highest number of Test as well as One-day wickets, has already announced that he would hang up his boots after the World Cup.

“This is my fourth World Cup. We won in 1996 and came close in 2007 by reaching the final. This would be a memorable one for me and for Sri Lankan fans if we can pull it off,” he said.

Muralitharan is one of the three spinners in Sri Lanka’s squad, the other two being left-arm Ranagana Herath and unpredictable Ajantha Mendis.

In the last World Cup, only Sri Lanka progressed to the final whereas the other two subcontinental giants India and Pakistan were knocked out after the preliminaries.

Sri Lanka have a devastating batting line-up, variety in the attack and agile fielders.

One of the most attacking players in world cricket today, Tillakaratne Dilshan at the top of the order can destory any attack. He has been a different player altogether since he started opening the innings. He will have in-form left-handed Upul Tharanga as his partner. They may not be in the same league as Sanath Jayasuriya and Romesh Kaluwitharana, who had rewritten the rules of batting at the top in 1996, but Tillekaratne and Tharanga are feared.

Sangakkara and Mahela Jayawardene are the two pillars of Sri Lankan batting. The two will shoulder the middle order. Both are masters in adapting to match situations and conditions and, if need be, they have the flair to attack. The other middle order batsmen Thilan Samaraweera, Chamara Kapugedara and all-rounder Angelo Mathews may not infuse the same confidence.

And that is why Ranatunga feels that either Sangakkara or Jayawardene should come down the batting order for more balance.

In Mathews, who can bowl medium fast, Sri Lanka has a genuine all-rounder which not many teams have.

The Sri Lankans will rely heavily on Muralitharan and ODI specialist express-fast Lasith Malinga, who took four wickets in four balls in the previous World Cup in the West Indies.

Squad: Kumar Sangakkara (captain and wicket-keeper), Mahela Jayawardene, Tillakaratne 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.

Fixture: Feb 20 vs Candada (Hambantota) , Feb 26 vs Pakistan (Colombo), Mar 1 vs Kenya (Colombo), Mar 5 vs Australia (Colombo), Mar 10 vs Zimbabwe (Pallekele), Mar 18 vs New Zealand (Mumbai).

(Avishek Roy can be contacted at avishek.r@ians.in)

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