Consultant Mahela Jayawardene with Wanindu Hasaranga. (Pix courtesy SLC)
This will be Sri Lanka’s first of three qualifying round stage matches as they look to secure a place in the Super 12 event, which begins next week.
But having to take the long way to T20 World Cup glory could prove the perfect opportunity for a new generation of Sri Lankan stars to make their names.
It has undoubtedly been a transitional period for Sri Lanka over the past few years. Since the 2015 Cricket World Cup they’ve seen the likes of Kumar Sangakkara, Mahela Jayawardene, Tillakaratne Dilshan, Rangana Herath, Lasith Malinga, Nuwan Kulasekara and Thisara Perera retire. But now they have the chance to show the world that the transitional phase is coming to an end and that they are ready to conquer cricket again. Cricket World Cup runners up in 2007 and 2011, T20 World Cup finalists in 2012 and winners in 2014, Sri Lanka have had a leaner time of it of late.
That’s why they find themselves in the first-round of the T20 World Cup rather than as automatic qualifiers for the Super 12 stage.
T20I cricket has not been kind to them lately, with the islanders suffering the most losses of any team in the shortest format of the game since the last T20 World Cup in 2016.
The challenge of finding their feet at this edition has not been made easier by the year-long suspensions being served by Niroshan Dickwella, Kusal Mendis and Danushka Gunathilaka for breaching the bio-secure bubble in England.
But the absence of three suspended experienced players can be looked at as another opportunity for Sri Lanka’s youngsters to step up on the big stage and make themselves known. (ICC)