Sri Lanka’s decline as a cricketing powerhouse is a cause for concern
Sri Lankan cricket was once the envy of the world with their world-class spinners and hard-hitting batsmen. One would expect such a team to reach new heights with the passage of time, but the Lankan Lions have a different and rather painful tale unfolding of late.
The Sri Lankan cricket team has come a long way from being a minnow to achieving insurmountable heights. The island nation has seen it all and in the 90’s, reinvented the limited overs format by going hell for leather at the new ball – something unheard of or ever seen before at the time.
It gave them the 1996 World Cup led by skipper Arjuna Ranatunga along with compatriots Aravinda De Silva, Sanath Jayasuriya, Marvan Atapattu, Romesh Kaluwitharana, Chaminda Vass and Muttiah Muralitharan. The turn of the millennium saw Mahela Jayawardene and Kumar Sangakkara carry the torch, while Muralitharan ended his career as the leading wicket-taker in Test history.
At the outset of the challenging T20 format, the Lankans adapted swiftly to the changing scenario and lifted the ICC World T20 Championship in 2014 to give Jayawardene and Sangakkara a grand send off. However, things have gone downhill since the retirement of those two to the extent that they may soon be approaching a point of no return.
Dinesh Chandimal playing against England
The recent lack in quality players and performances has left ex-players and fans deeply disappointed. A few factors that have played a part in their decline are the retirement of key players, loss and aging of quality spinners like Rangana Herath and instability in selection as well as coaching staff. They’ve played under four different coaches in the past four years as their domestic structure continues their struggle of developing players capable of competing with the best on the world level.
The unsettled combination of players has led to below-par performances, which in turn have seen them on the wrong end of embarrassing losses against South Africa, Australia and India at home. Their lowest points came in an ODI series loss against Zimbabwe as well as numerous defeats at the hands of Bangladesh, casting them further adrift into the abyss.
Current skipper Dinesh Chandimal has a lot on his plate and the ongoing series against England, where the tourists have already beaten them in the ODIs, T20Is and Tests, only adds to their suffering. They are at an all-time low in the ICC T20 rankings as well below minnows Afghanistan. In fact, things have gotten so bad that critics have started questioning their participation in the upcoming World Cup 2019 in England. These are desperate times for Sri Lanka and if they want to salvage this sinking ship, they need to revive the spirit of 1996 and address their shortcomings behind the scenes before anything else.
Words: Ritvik Mawkin