World Cup Preview: Sri Lanka & UAE

Looking at two more teams in the first round.

Sri Lanka

Last time

They stormed through round one last time; it was carnage. That meant Sri Lanka looked like a slightly better team than they probably were. They went 2 and 3 in the main round but should have beaten South Africa. So it was mixed, but it was clear that they were building a much better team even before that tournament (read this for the full story on Sri Lanka). The Lankan Premier League was the start of it, and the Asia cup proved it more.

The strength

They have two of the hottest spin prospects around, which is pretty handy, especially as they are so different. Hasaranga's legspin is low and hard to pick up. Unlike almost every other top spin prospect in the world, he also has power hitting, which is an incredible bonus. Then you have Theekshana, who I  suppose is like a slightly more skilled version of Mujeeb Ur Rahman if you are looking for the nearest neighbour. The main question here should be how his bowling will translate out of Asia. Well if he is a bit like Mujeeb - who did pretty well in the Big Bash - then it might go ok.

And Theekshana has played five matches in Australia, and he did pretty well in them. It might be weird to look at this as a strength coming to Australia but the Big Bash has proven that spin is always important there. And even if he isn't the same player, he's still might be good enough.

The problems

They are a slow-scoring team. I am not a big fan of T20I data, because often teams rest their best players. But Sri Lanka hasn't done that much, so we know they've had a pretty strong XI, and so that is a concern.

If you look at them in the last two years - the Lankan Premier League period - you can see that there is only one batter in their side with a plus 130 strike rate. Rajapaksa aside, this is a real plodding lineup. Special shoutout to Avishka Fernando down here at the bottom. Everyone knows what a talent he is, but it takes some effort to have a career T20I strike rate of 94. He's not at the World Cup of course, but it shows you how they're still looking for guys who can hit. Or not even that, just score at a decent rate.

On this list is also Chamika Karunaratne, who is a seam bowling all rounder who was picked up for the IPL, but has played a lot for them. I think they might have to play him in Australia, and look at his strike rate (which is basically close to his career mark). You want a weaker fifth bowling option like him to have a bit of striking ability. And having their leader Shanaka down so low is also a major problem.

I also worry about their seamers fitness. While some of their backups show promise (I like Madushanka in the future) coming to Australia with a shaky seam unit is not great.


They should win all three here. Obs.

They could get rolled by a bunch of Namibian lefties or the Dutch quicks. But really one loss should be the nightmare scenario and they can still qualify with that. As for the rest of the tournament, the worst-case is that after the Asia Cup is that they aren't fighting for the final four.

The best case is obviously winning these three, and then making the finals. Once there, it's really down to matchups and luck. But they just won the Asia cup, they now have the local league, and their players are getting picked by the IPL again. Australia may not be an awesome place for them to play. On their last tour they lost three, won once and tied the other. But even just fighting for the final four shows they are moving in the right direction.

United Arab Emirates

Last time

They didn't make the last World Cup. This was really quite stupid for several reasons. Especially as the qualifier was at home, and thanks to Covid, so was the tournament. In a warm-up game before, they completely dusted up Scotland - who did make the tournament. The problem was that from that moment onwards, everything fell apart. They actually lost five of their players mid-tournament, some just leaving the country, others getting caught in fixing controversies. I don't think we've ever seen a team lose 33% of its squad like that before, certainly not in those circumstances. My first-ever Red Inker podcast was about it.

The strength

In the last two years, Muhammad Waseem and Vriitya Aravind have made a lot of runs. And they do it pretty fast as well. Aravind has moved around the order a bit but is at his best around number three and four, and can keep. Waseem is the opener, and he's been incredible.

And a lot of that has been against Ireland as well. In five matches against them, he has two hundreds. In different series as well. There is undoubtedly something to him, even if it's only early in his career.

And he's not the only one who enjoyed Ireland. Karthik Meiyappan is their young leggie, and he's played ten games. As strengths go, it's not ideal. But he averaged 14 in those matches, while going at 7 runs per over. In two games against Ireland, he has taken five wickets. It is worth pointing out that Ireland is terrible against legspin as a general rule. But his numbers look good so far.

The problems

Forget the flaws of this quickly rebuilding team, this will be the third time in their history they have played outside Asia in T20Is. The other two tours were Netherlands and Scotland. Neither are very Ausrtalianlike are they. So this is going to be rough for them, no matter what. If you need proof, go back and what some of their cricket in the 2015 ODI World Cup.


Worst case is they bounce out without a win. And it's very possible, the lack of cricket in this part of the world, Namibia are tough to get past, the Netherlands can rip through them and Sri Lanka isn't even a conversation.

I suppose the best case is a bit like what happened to Namibia last time, getting through to the next round. But that isn't realistic. A single win would be enough for them for this tournament. And maybe just getting here after the omnishambles shitshow of 2018 is the best case.

So weirdly, best and worst case is pretty much the same.