Sri Lanka’s build up for the 2017 ICC Champions Trophy to be held in England from June 1 to 18 is indeed the high stakes fusion accentuated on a six-day high intensity endurance and performance program now under full swing. That Sri Lanka Cricket’s (SLC) think tank support staff has embarked on such a preparatory course while prioritizing the climatic conditions in Kandy and Diyatalawa for the team to acclimatize in altitude training to English conditions is certainly the ideal take off for instant cricket’s extravaganza. To the cricket world, the ICC Champions Trophy is one of the game’s blockbusters akin to the Cricket World Cup, and indeed it is a momentum gathering gallop for the participating teams. In that vein, Sri Lanka, as one of the few elite status insulating elite nation’s that basks in an aura of world cup glory fame, having a tilt to mount this summit again having won it before is of tremendous significance to the island nation. In that thrust, one buoying factor to the Sri Lankan camp is the presence of regular captain Angelo Mathews back at practice in the thick of things. For, the herculean trappings that Mathews lends to the team is huge going by the oozing all-round talent the 29-year old carries, particularly centered on his batting exploits on the international stage. Sri Lankan cricket fans can breathe a sigh of relief that their trump card is in the fray for the big countdown. Sri Lanka as a host of the ICC Champions Trophy 2002 was the first and only host to win the tournament, though they were declared co-champions with India. England is the only other host to have made the finals, in (2004, 2013).
GURUSINHA A LYNCH PIN
The other key factor to Sri Lanka’s campaign hopes is the presence of former world cup star Asanka Gurusinha in what Sri Lanka Cricket (SLC) sees as ‘the’ driving impetus in maximising the team gelling mechanism of oiling up to give the best shot for the cup. Gurusinha, who played a key role in Sri Lanka’s 1995-96 world cup triumph by a defining half century in the final against Australia at Lahore, brings tremendous skill acumen in the dual roles of Team Manager and Cricket Manager as the key link to the team in drumming up the players to top fettle in terms of potential and as much in regard to other requirements that he would be monitoring to the SLC executive committee. This step has been identified by SLC President, Thilanga Sumathipala as a major step in the right direction in the country’s cricket rebuilding process to rubbing shoulders with the best in the world.
SAMARAWICKREMA NUDGES SELECTORS
It will be also interesting to see how the national selectors headed by Sanath Jayasuriya who now also has the services of Gurusinha, who was drafted in on an unanimous decision by the SLC hierarchy, and approved by Sports Minister, Dayasiri Jayasekera, will look at selections for the mega event. This is particularly so with heated competition for places with quite a handful of players from the youth cricket rungs tapping on the door for selection. One such conspicuous candidate is the 21-year old Sadeera Samarawickrema who has been in cracking form in trial matches against foreign opposition including a ton against the England Lions, and still more significantly his match winning 45 against Pakistan in the final won by Sri Lanka that clinched the U-23 Emrerging Asia Cup Trophy a fortnight ago. He followed it up with a century for Galle in the ongoing Super Provincial Tournament.
BANGLADESH OUST WEST INDIES
Interestingly, Bangladesh has snowballed in to a slot among the eight top ICC ranked nations as of September 30, 2015 the qualifying yardstick, having edged out the West Indies. While this marks a significant ascendancy in Bangladesh cricket from a minnows tag to a potential threatening force to the top countries in limited overs cricket, the ebbing out of one time champions West Indies from the 18-day high stakes contest to be worked out in England and Wales marks a dark chapter in West Indian cricket for a nation that dominated instant cricket like a mighty colossus in the 1960s to 80s decades. The reigning champions of the ICC Champions Trophy is India. Thirteen nations have qualified for the Champions Trophy at least once. Seven teams have competed in every finals tournament, six of which have won the title. South Africa won the inaugural tournament, India and Australia have won two each, while New Zealand, Sri Lanka and West Indies have each won once.
By Srian Obeyesekere
-The opinions expressed here are the views of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of Sri Lanka Cricket-