Sri Lanka is the second most successful team in the history of the Asia Cup with four trophies, one fewer than India. Going by their recent performances, they go into the tournament as the red-hot favourites. In the CB Series finals, they lost to Australia 2-1 after running the world number one team very close. They have got a team full of allrounders and that surely is going to stand them in good stead.
The presence of top-class spinners also adds weight to their campaign as Mirpur, the only venue for the tournament, has a pitch that favours the slow bowlers.
Sri Lanka's trophies came in 1986, 1997, 2004 and 2008. Overall, they have played 40 matches, winning 29 and losing 11. In terms of percentage, they have the best record as against India's 62.85 and Pakistan’s 60.00. It's 72.50. Sri Lanka also came in second six times in 1984, 1988, 1990-91, 1995, 2000 and 2010.
Their captain Mahela Jayawardene seems to be enjoying his job a lot and the players also look determined to bring the team back to the powerful status it once enjoyed. The Asia Cup could be the beginning of a long journey ahead of them.
The opening pair of Jayawardene and Tillakaratne Dilshan is a big threat. It's a blend of caution and aggression. As Jayewardene displays deliberation, Dilshan displays attacking prowess, and on their day they can put any opposition to the sword. And how can one discount Lasith Malinga? He is still the most potent bowler in the limited-overs cricket and is really a handful in the death overs. Dinesh Chandimal is another to watch out for. The batsman has been really prolific in recent times in South Africa and Australia and looks set to go one better here.
Strength and weaknesses :
This Sri Lankan team has few weaknesses, at least on paper. They have all the ingredients needed for a champion team: top class batting, top class bowling and top class fielding - the latter attribution rare for an Asian team. However, on a bad day they can be a real downer: consistency is the issue. If they shake off this problem, the sky is the only limit for them.
Against India, they have won nine of 17 matches; losing the rest. Against Pakistan, their record is even more impressive, winning eight ties out of 11. They are undefeated against Bangladesh so far, winning all 10 matches.
Their opener against India on March 13 is a key match. In the CB Series, they beat the Indians in all departments and that should give them a lot of confidence here. The match against Pakistan two days later is equally significant. Pakistan's limited-overs performance of late has been pretty dismal and the Lankans look set to take advantage of that.
Happy Hunting Ground?
Sri Lanka's record at Mirpur is quite impressive. They won a Test here in 2008. They have won six ODIs here as well out of eight matches.
On the basis of recent performance, Sri Lanka look the team to beat but Asia Cup has a history of throwing up unexpected results and they cannot afford to be complacent.
Mahela Jayawardene (capt), Angelo Mathews (vice-capt), Tillakaratne Dilshan, Upul Tharanga, Kumar Sangakkara, Dinesh Chandimal, Lahiru Thirimanne, Thisara Perera, Farveez Maharoof, Sachithra Senanayake, Nuwan Kulasekara, Lasith Malinga, Seekkuge Prasanna, Suranga Lakmal