The buoying tonic to the Sri Lanka cricketers by Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe to go for the 2019 World Cup is indeed timely. For a young blend at the helm of which is the experienced skipper Angelo Mathews this reminder to the national cricketers from high up 3 years hence to the cricketing showpiece event must serve as soul stirring in the island nation’s new generation thrust to scaling international heights. The concentrated drive that begun some months ago under the administration of the game’s nerve centre’s President of Sri Lanka Cricket (SLC), Thilanga Sumathipala has significantly just begun to get into rhythm on the back of new blood or young guns that have raised their hands to deliver.
The Test cricket team is fresh from a facile clean sweeping of Australia as the fresher laden Sri Lankan juggernaut gets into the build up for the future. In that vein, the pep talk by the Prime Minister, who is a keen sports lover who never misses the annual Royal-Thomian cricket ‘big match, at a felicitation ceremony the other day, must certainly be a motivating factor as the country’s cricket administration and selectors fine-comb for an ideally potential winning combination to win world cricket’s jackpot.
Looking at the road to the world cup, it is pertinent to Sri Lanka for a third world nation that basks in the envious fame of being one of the few countries to have scaled the elite heights of tasting cup glory in 1996. Since then five world cups have gone by and Sri Lanka has come close to it losing in one final in 2011 to India and reached two semi finals chasing trophy success again. In what is cricket’s most intensely contested International Cricket Council (ICC) event for the pot of gold that goes with the glittering trophy and huge financial remuneration to the winning team, for Sri Lanka, winning it for a second time is a great expectation of a 21 million cricket crazy population.
Indeed, the feeling has been huge as successive captains have had a go for the chunk of gold. That the island nation has come within distance of making it a few times, but lacked the firepower to deliver in the crunch of it is something to be rued. While it is admirable for a nation that gained full ICC status in 1981 to have made an overly impact in the game’s 36-year long cup history that has seen 10 world cups staged since 1979 to 2015, Sri Lanka believes it has the ointment for cup anointment again. What ferments a 1 Team, 1 Nation thrust to win the world cup for a second time is derived by the fact that Sri Lanka has an enriched history as a nation known for its fluency in instant cricket. Historically its players have an origin of playing their cricket at a fast pace with Sri Lankan batsmen known for their innovative crackerjack stroke play. Perhaps, Aravinda de Silva, Sri Lanka’s world cup hero of 1996, and Sanath Jayasuriya, famously dubbed the ‘Master Blaster’ for ushering the new dimension of hitting over the top in the first 15 overs with co-opener Romesh Kaluwitharana, best illustrate that dictum of cricket of the former world champions.
Thus, the cup voyage on the back of mainly new blood that has come on the blocks with tremendous promise for the future in a new generation of its cricket where players like Kusal Mendis, the new batting find along with Dhananjaya de Silva, Lakshan Sandakan, who has evoked something of Muttiah Muralidaran as a spinner, forms a solid base. Three years hence is ideally a time frame to the right build up combination. The establishment must pay heed to the fact that Sri Lanka fell short in its cup campaigns due to poor planning with last minute scrambles being the bane. Now, with the cricket safely ensconced under the expert eye of incumbent SLC President, Thilanga Sumathipala who has at his disposal a dynamic highly cricket ingrained administration, Sri Lanka has its best chance of drilling up to cup winning heights.
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-
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