After languishing in the lower order, Chamara Kapugedera was finally given a chance at number four, ahead of Angelo Mathews and he wasted no time in claiming this position as his own. Kapugedera seems to have the highest range of shots in the current lineup and his ability to send balls soaring into the stadium makes him the ideal number four. The right-hander also takes some time to get settled, which he can afford to at that position, and once in, Chamara can turn games on his own head.
Even though Angelo Mathews patrols that position in the current team, Milinda Siriwardana is the one who should be batting at this position. As was evident in the game against Bangladesh, Angelo consumes a lot of dot balls, despite atoning for the missed opportunities during the tail of his innings with big hits. Such style of batting naturally makes him a very good finisher, but at number five this type of innings can make or break the momentum for his team. Middle order batsmen are expected to be good strike rotators and Mathews’s penchant for playing dot balls can stall the team’s momentum.
Milinda, on the other hand, has divulged his ability to deposit bowlers into the stands soon after he marks his guard and his sensible batting can become handy when the spinners operate. The left-hander has also stitched together excellent partnerships with Chamara Kapugedera in recent times, and their presence in the middle order can help the team propel themselves during the middle overs.
Angelo Mathews at number six might sound a tad defeatist, but Mathews would better serve the team at this position than a place higher. Against New Zealand in Auckland, when the entire batting order flopped, Angelo Mathew’s lone battle earned Sri Lanka a score of 142 with Mathews scoring 81 of those in just 49 balls. The remarkable feature of that innings was that 56 of those runs came while batting with the tail and Sri Lanka managed to add 72 after their sixth wicket fell.
Mathews is the best in the team when it comes to batting with the tail and the team could easily add 20-30 runs extra if Mathews bat with the lower order. Even though Mathews might personally be able to score more batting at number five, the team can greatly profit by having him at number six.
Dasun Shanaka came into the Asia Cup with a great reputation of power-hitting, but his performance in the Asia Cup was unbecoming. Sri Lanka doesn’t have much time to wait for him to deliver the goods and hence, must play Thisara Perera at number seven.
Perera at number eight can be a liability for the team since his bowling has jaded out in recent times, but at number seven his bowling can be considered a bonus. He also gave glimpses of hope against India and his experience with Indian conditions would help him do better with the bat than the rest of the contenders.
Lasith Malinga, Dushmantha Chameera and Nuwan Kulasekara are shoo-ins in this team and the only place that can be scrutinized is the place of Rangana Herath. Despite being experienced, Herath could not pick many wickets in this Asia Cup and he failed to contain the run flow in some of the games.
Sri Lanka cannot expect rank turners in India and since Herath is not potent in tracks that don’t offer much spin, Sri Lanka should look to give Jeffrey Vandersay a chance. Leg spinners, by nature, are wicket takers and Vandersay’s track record with the A team is nothing but brilliant. Having a wicket taking spinner would be one of the keys to success in India against non-sub continental teams and not possessing an X factor in the spin bowling department would deprive Sri Lanka of their traditional advantage they have had against teams like England and South Africa.
Vandersay might prove to be expensive, but given the depth of bowling, Sri Lanka has, the team can be expected to find alternatives if the leg spinner is going to have a forgettable day.
It is not the end of the world for Sri Lanka and if the team can make some radical moves with inflicting damages on the opposition being the chief goal, instead of taking steps to control damage, then the islanders could push their limits to, perhaps, be the surprise package in the world tournament.