In the world of cricket, skill sets often make the crucial difference. The Sri Lankan cricket team, with an average age of 27.3, is still in the process of deciphering the mysteries of the One Day International (ODI) format. Their journey has been marked by promising performances, such as reaching the Super Four stage in the Asia Cup against Pakistan. However, they faced a harsh reality check in the final, where India’s experience prevailed, and Mohammed Siraj’s exceptional performance dismantled them in Colombo.
If Siraj’s spell taught them valuable lessons on avoiding self-destruction, the Sri Lankan team arrived in Hyderabad with newfound insights gained from their recent struggles against South Africa. It’s a reminder that skill sets can make a significant difference in cricket.
The upcoming match against Pakistan at the Rajiv Gandhi International Stadium holds promise for the Lankan team, currently ranked ninth in the ODI table. It offers another opportunity to find their footing in a tournament they last won in 1996. However, given their historical record, this task is easier said than done. Sri Lanka has never managed to defeat Pakistan in a World Cup encounter. While they didn’t face each other in the 1979, 1996, 1999, 2003, 2007, and 2015 editions, Pakistan secured victories in 1975, 1983 (twice), 1987 (twice), 1992, and 2011. Additionally, a match in Bristol in 2019 ended without a result.
Nevertheless, Sri Lanka has the advantage of familiarity with Indian wickets, thanks to their participation in the Indian Premier League (IPL). The return of Maheesh Theekshana is expected to bolster their lineup, possibly replacing left-arm spinner Dunith Wellalage and Lahiru Kumara or Matheesha Pathirana. The key to Sri Lanka’s fortunes lies in the form of Kusal Mendis, who has been in good touch and will play a crucial role in countering the Pakistan bowling attack.
On the other hand, the Pakistan team is more accustomed to the conditions, having trained and won a match against the Netherlands at the same venue. While openers Fakhar Zaman and Imam-ul-Haq have faced some challenges, skipper Babar Azam, Mohammed Rizwan, Iftikhar Ahmed, and Saud Shakeel have all been among the runs. Saud Shakeel, in particular, has been impressive, being the first batter in Test history to score 50 or more in each of his first seven Tests, including six half-centuries and two centuries. His partnership with Rizwan proved vital against the Netherlands, and the Pakistanis aim to maintain their winning momentum before the highly anticipated clash against India in Ahmedabad on Saturday.