If Jaffna has won the champions trophy twice in a row in the LPL, then Kandy has the infamy of winning the wooden spoon twice in a row. Will their fate be any better this time around or are they going to once again find themselves at the bottom of the table? Let’s find out.
Like what we have done before, we will be analyzing Kandy’s squad by assessing their powerplay, middle-over, and death-over batting, while looking at their powerplay and death-over bowling along with the variations they have and their fifth bowling option.
This analysis will ignore Chamindu Wijesinghe, Lasith Abeyratne, Kavin Bandara, and Avishka Perera as not enough data is available about them.
Kandy have filled their squad with garden-variety run-grafters, so they are going to once again struggle to put together a decent XI. However, unlike in the past, they have also managed to recruit some very high-impact players, which can offset their lack of depth to an extent.
The only T20 opener Kandy has who can come close to being called decent is Andre Fletcher, whose strike rate in T20s is a measly 118.15. However, his strike rate against pace is north of 140 and this means that Kandy has to open with him. Moreover, Kandy also lack a good wicket-keeping option, so picking him becomes inevitable. To partner with him, Kandy has Minod Bhanuka and Pathum Nissanka, who are both openers by trade. Nevertheless, Nissanka strikes at 103 during the powerplay in T20s, while Minod Bhanuka’s overall strike rate in the LPL is a paltry 106. Playing such players in T20s is a crime per se, let alone opening with them.
However, Kandy does have a decent opening option in Kamindu Mendis. He may not have opened in T20s but given the options available down the order and his strike rate of 167.82 in the SLC Invitational T20 League in 2021, Kandy can opt to open with him. Mendis has a very good range and moving up the order will help him neutralize his lack of raw power.
Furthermore, opening with Mendis will also allow Kandy to have a left-hand-right-hand combination and this will be important to shield Fletcher from slow left armers and wrist spinners during the powerplay.
Kandy’s powerplay scoring will be severely hampered if Fletcher is dismissed early as Kandy don’t really have a backup for him. Ashen Bandara, who I will slot at 3, doesn’t have the ability to score briskly as his strike rate of 124 in T20s will tell you. So, I will rate Kandy’s powerplay batting 40 out of 100.
Najibullah Zadran will be Kandy’s left-handed enforcer against spin during the middle overs and his ability against pace also makes him a good pace shield along with Andre Fletcher, provided that he lasts the powerplay. Ashen Bandra has shown glimpses of potential against spin, and he is the best option among the horde of run grafters Kandy have. Kandy will also have to promote Hasaranga to number 5 to hit spin since he is the only option they have, even though he still has a long way to go before becoming an accomplished spin hitter.
Considering Najibullah’s ability against pace and spin, and Hasaranga’s potential against spin, I will give Kandy’s middle-over batting a rating of 75 out of 100.
Kandy managed to bag both Fabian Allen and Carlos Brathwaite, which would have made their death-over batting really strong. However, the absence of a good local top-order batsman means that Kandy have to play Fletcher, so only one of Allen or Brathwaite can be picked. Fabian Allen has done appreciably well against spin and his pace-hitting ability combined with the slow left-arm option he offers makes him a better option than Brathwaite.
On the other hand, Chamika Karunaratne has not yet reified his big-hitting potential yet and Kandy will have to hope that he can live up to his potential to score fast at the death. Moreover, Isuru Udana’s presence at number 8 should add depth to their batting but his inconsistency with the bat means he can’t be relied upon. I will rate Knady’s death-over batting 44 out of 100.
The presence of Hasaranga automatically makes Kandy’s middle-over bowling very strong. Kandy also have the services of two express bowlers in Oshane Thomas and Matheesha Pathirana. Even though inexperienced, Pathirana’s lower arm action at express pace could help Kandy at the death along with the extra pace offered by Oshane Thomas.
However, there is an injury cloud over Pathirana, and it is not yet known if he will take part in the tournament at all. Kandy don’t really have a replacement for him and if he is ruled out, their bowling attack will become weakened further.
Kandy can fill the second spinner’s spot with Malinda Pushpakumara, but the presence of Fabian Allen means they are better off picking Ashian Daniel who has the ability to bowl both off spin and leg spin. This will also add variety to Kandy’s bowling and allow them to exploit matchup opportunities. Chamika Karunaratne also provides a decent fifth bowling option and the bowling of Brathwaite can also be used if needed.
Kandy’s biggest worry however would be during the powerplay as they have no specialists to bowl with the new ball. They may have to rely on Ashian Daniel, who has bowled during the powerplay at the domestic level, to bowl a few overs upfront along with Isuru Udana. Udana, although is a slow-ball merchant, does swing the ball on occasion and Kandy will hope that he punches above his weight.
Overall, I will rate Kandy’s bowling 45 out of 100 but if Pathirana is ruled out it will come down to 41.
Kandy’s batting packs some power and their bowling, even though is strong on most counts, is left bored by their lack of powerplay options. On the whole, Kandy gets a rating of 50 (48 without Pathirana) out of 100.
My preferred starting XI:
Andre Fletcher (wk), Kamindu Mendis, Ashen Bandara, Najibullah Zadran, Wanindu Hasaranga, Fabian Allen, Chamika Karunaratne, Isuru Udana, Ashian Daniel, Oshane Thomas, Matheesha Pathirana
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