Despite consistently fielding one of the strongest teams on paper, Dambulla has struggled to reach the finals thus far, and once again they will enter the tournament as one of the favorites. What makes them favorites and what should their team look like? We shall see this in this article.
As we have done with the previous squad analysis, we will evaluate Dambulla’s squad by looking at their powerplay, middle-over, and death-over batting, while analyzing their powerplay and death-over bowling along with the variety available and their fifth bowling option.
This analysis will ignore Dilum Sudeera, Sachitha Jayathilake, Ravindu Fernando, and Chamindu Wijesinghe as not much is known about them.
Of all the teams, it is Dambulla that is gifted with the most exciting pair of young, local opening batsmen in Lasith Croospulle and Shevon Daniel. Lasith Croospulle is an opener by trade and had a phenomenal outing in the SLC Invitational T20 league this year, striking at 130 in a tournament where most batsmen struggled to score briskly. Even though he lacks raw power, his long levers, excellent range, and his ability to time the ball well make him a very intriguing option.
On the other hand, Shevon Daniel is fresh from his terrific show in the Pakistan Junior League and is easily the most exciting teenager on the island. Even though he batted at number three both in the under-19 World Cup and the Pakistan Junior League, given the options Dambulla have, Shevon Daniel can be sent up the order. Besides, the field restriction should allow the youngster to get going easily, a luxury he may not always get at number 3.
The pair of Croospulle and Daniel have tremendous potential against pace, and they also seem to have a good game against spin. On top of it, the left-hand-right-hand combination will also make them an ideal foil for one other. Dambulla also have the option of using Bhanuka Rajapaksa during the powerplay if there is an early wicket. Despite batting lower down the order for Sri Lanka, the southpaw’s best position remains at the top of the order, and he will most certainly enjoy the field restriction and the extra time he gets.
Though Dambulla’s powerplay ability looks promising, one cannot expect potential to be parlayed into performance immediately. Accordingly, Dambulla’s powerplay batting can ebb and flow, so I will rate them 50 out of 100.
Bhanuka Rajapaksa is without an iota of doubt the best Sri Lankan left-handed enforcer during the middle overs and he will be a menace against spin bowlers. Sikandar Raza has also done well against off-spin and wrist spin in the recent past and the opposition will have to resort to slow left arm to keep the Zimbabwean quiet. Rajapaksa and Raza have also done well against pace, so the opposition don’t have the option of using pace against Dambulla’s middle order.
Dasun Shanaka at number five will also provide firepower against pace even though his game against spin is suspect. Albeit him having done well against spin at the domestic level, his numbers in T20Is and the LPL paint a diametrically opposite picture. This means Raza and Rajapaksa will have to pull their weight consistently to make sure Dambulla doesn’t get bogged down against spin, especially towards the fag end of the tournament in Colombo, when pitches will be tired and turning.
I will give Dambulla’s middle-over batting a rating of 83 out of 100.
Dambulla’s only wicket-keeping option is Jordan Cox, so he will have to be played over Tom Abell. Cox has a good record against pace and wrist spin, but it is left to be seen how well he adapts to the Sri Lankan conditions as he has never played in similar conditions.
At number 7, Dambulla should consider playing Lahiru Madushanka. Madushanka demonstrated his big-hitting ability in the 2021 SLC Invitational T20 League both against spin and the medium pace of Suranga Lakmal and there is no better option than him in Dambulla’s squad. He has to be picked largely on potential, so this leaves Dambulla’s death-over batting slightly vulnerable,
If teams attempt bowling spin earlier in the death overs, Shanaka’s potential against spin and Cox’s good numbers against wrist spin may offer Dambulla some salvation. Dambulla can also consider promoting Madushanka to number 5 to target spin, and pushing Shanaka down, in which case their lower order becomes strengthened at the expense of their middle order. Noor Ahamed has manifested his power-hitting ability on many an occasion and he would add depth to Dambulla’s batting. So, overall, I will rate their death-over-batting ability 50 out of 100.
On the bowling front, Dambulla have two express bowlers in Lahiru Kumara and Paul van Meekeren. Noor Ahmad’s fast left-arm wrist spin gives an additional edge to their middle-over bowling. Dambulla also have the luxury of the ambidextrous Tharindu Ratnayake who can be bowled at both right and left-handers. In addition, Sikandar Raza has added a few variations to his quiver, with which he managed to flummox a few batsmen in the T20 World Cup, and this makes him an excellent fifth bowling option.
Dambulla do not have reliable options during the powerplay and at the death but the pace of Kumara and Meekeren can offer them some breathing space, especially against local batsmen who struggle to hit express pace. The spin of Ratnayake and Raza can also be utilized during the powerplay. I will give their bowling attack a rating of 68 out of 100.
Dambulla can be a tough team to bowl at if at least one of Croospulle and Shevon Daniel can come good. With Rajapaksa, Raza and Shanaka, the batting packs a punch while the pace of Kumara and Meekeren along with Noor Ahmad’s fast wrist spin make their bowling a very potent one.
My overall rating for Dambulla is 66 out of 100.
My preferred starting XI:
Lasith Croospulle, Shevon Daniel, Bhanuka Rajapaksa, Sikandar Raza, Dasun Shanaka, Jordan Cox (wk), Lahiru Madushanka, Noor Ahmad, Tharindu Ratnayake, Paul van Meekeren, Lahiru Kumara