T20 World Cup 2022: Are Sri Lanka over-relying on spinners?

Sri Lanka have two of the finest T20 tweakers around. The guileful leg-spinner Wanindu Hasaranga and the cunning mystery-spinner Maheesh Theekshana. Together, they could unleash most tricks in the spin diction, from standard leg-breaks to reverse carrom-balls, and do not necessarily require assistance from the pitch. There is the under-rated part-time off-spin of Dhananjaya de Silva as well.

But as sorted as Sri Lanka’s spin department is, there is uncertainty around their pace bowling firm. The Asia Cup saw a couple of youngsters emerging from obscurity, like left-arm seamer Dilshan Madushanka and Pramod Madushan. But they have a collective experience of eight T20Is. Their two most experienced bowlers, Dushmantha Chameera and Lahiru Kumara, though included in the squad, are battling injuries and are uncertain.

Chameera has endured a string of injuries, one to the calf being the latest. So has Kumara, who has been recouping from a recurring hamstring injury. Even if they regain fitness in time, they would be coming in with little match practice — Kumara last featured in an international game in March, while Chameera, despite the team management’s best measures to not over-burden him, has broken down frequently and last played a competitive game in June. Both are not expected to turn up for the qualifying games.

That would leave a crushing burden on Madushanka and Madushan. Madushanka, one of the architects of the Asia Cup triumph, has the bearings to succeed — he bowls at decent pace (135-142 kph), gets late inward movement that troubled both Babar Azam and Virat Kohli, and is disciplined. But his death bowling is still a work in progress and he tends to bowl too many length balls.

Like Madushanka, Madushan too likes to hit the good-to-full-length band, and tends to err on the shorter side when he strives to bowl back-of-length. His lack of express pace means the short ball becomes fodder for batsmen. Sri Lanka thus lack a pound-the-deck bowler who can be handy in Australian conditions, apart from Kumara. And none apart from Kumara are skilled death-bowlers.

Apart from this quartet — of which two are uncertain and two callow — Sri Lanka have little depth in the pace bowling department. Medium-pacer Chamika Karunaratne tends to be scattergun and is usually confined to part-time duties. Dasun Shanaka has become a reluctant bowler after becoming captain. There is little promise on the standby bench either. The only fast-bowling alternative is Binura Fernando, who leaks nearly eight-and-a-half runs an over. So yet again, Sri Lanka are left over-relying on their multi-skilled spinners.

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