- Countdown To ICC World Cup 2011
By Dinouk Colombage
As the 2011 edition of the ICC World Cup continues to draw closer Sri Lanka’s anticipation of a successful campaign grows larger. The hopes of the nation rest with the 15 cricketers both known and little known, who have been chosen to bring back the silverware it won in ‘96. As the excitement builds up, today we feature five key players who have the potential to do just that.
Team Sri Lanka will be led from the front by the stylish left-hander wicketkeeper/batsman Kumar Sangakarra. At 33 years of age Sangakkara will be playing in his third World Cup and captaining his first. He was appointed captain of the national team in March 2009, and has led the team to numerous series wins including the most recent 2-1 win over Australia in Australia.
Having debuted in 2000 against Pakistan, Kumar Sangakarra was tipped for greatness from the early stages in his career. His on field attitude and aggressive approach towards opposition sledging reminded many of former skipper Arjuna Ranatunga. However, it was not until 2004 that Sangakkara showed his true ability with the bat maintaining a healthy average of over 50.
Sangakkara, having given up the keeping gloves in test cricket, will be taking up the mantle of wicketkeeper/batsman during the World Cup. In 279 one-day internationals Sangakarra has 344 dismissals to his name. A record, which should hold him in good stead.
Former captain and current vice-captain Mahela Jayawardena will be looked upon to steady the middle order that has not been in the best of nick in recent times. During his successful tenure as captain of Sri Lanka from 2006 to 2009, Jayawardena took Sri Lanka to the finals of the last World Cup in Barbados in the West Indies. Having stepped down as captain in 2009 Mahela Jayawardena has transformed himself into a highly versatile batsman proving that he can be an explosive opener as well as a steady middle order batsman.
Boasting of a highly respectable record of 9027 runs in one day cricket Mahela Jayawardena has proved himself to be a match winner. Having played in three previous World Cups, the experience Jayawardene will bring to the team will be invaluable. Along with his batting, Jayawardena offers a safe option in the slips, boasting a world record 168 catches.
Lasith ‘Slinga’ Malinga will be looked upon as the spearhead of the Sri Lankan bowling attack. His unorthodox action, along with his armoury of slower balls and toe-ripping yorkers, often prove destructive to opposition batting line-ups. A surprise debut awaited Malinga in 2004 when he was chosen to tour Australia for a two test series. His low arm action grabbed the attention of the cricketing world. With 108 wickets to his name from 75 matches, Malinga’s most famous performance came against South Africa in the 2007 World Cup. He became the first man to take four wickets off four consecutive deliveries.
Along with his lethal bowling, Lasith Malinga has proven himself to be an able batsman. He was part of a record 9th wicket partnership of 132 runs with Angelo Mathews against Australia in 2010. His raw pace and subtle variations will be looked upon to help Sri Lanka go for the kill.
Young and upcoming all-rounder Angelo Mathews, has been tipped by many as a future captain of Sri Lanka. At 23 years of age Mathews has much to offer to the game. A solid lower-middle order batsman and a steady medium pacer, it is tough to keep this all-rounder out of the action. Averaging 33 with the bat and 28 with the ball Mathews has cemented his spot in the team.
Apart from his talent on the field, Angelo Mathews has shown himself to have a mature cricketing mind. His role in the record 9th wicket partnership with Lasith Malinga in Australia is but a taste of what is to come from this youngster.
Sri Lanka cricket’s iconic player and proven master of the game, Muttiah Muralitharan, will be embarking on his final series in his illustrious career. Arguably the greatest spinner to have played the game, Muralitharan has 517 wickets to his name in one day cricket. Murali, being the sole survivor of the successful 1996 World Cup, will be looking to sign off from the international stage in a blaze of glory. Having played in four previous editions of the World Cup Murali will be counted upon to help guide both the younger and experienced campaigners through the tournament. We look at the next batch of five World Cup 2011 campaigners next week.