Will the Real Test Champs Win?

A closer look at how the points system can affect the contenders

ICC World Test Championship Series

The much-awaited World Cup for Test cricket is underway. Contested by the top nine teams in ICC rankings, it aims at adding relevance and context to all bilateral Test series. Sounds good, but dig deep, you wouldn’t stumble upon a treasure trove as such.

Each team will play only six bilateral series against mutually decided opponents, instead of playing eight. For example, Sri Lanka wouldn’t play two stronger sides, India and Australia; New Zealand would skip England and South Africa. Would it discount a team’s overall superiority?

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A Tall Order for ex-Kings

Sri Lanka’s bumpy ride to 2020 ICC T20 World Cup

Sri Lanka in 2020 ICC T20 World Cup

Sri Lanka: 2014 ICC World T20 Champions.

Since the World Cup’s dramatic ending and with a glamour-less Test Championship in progress, the cricketing world has shifted its focus to the next big tournament. The global razzmatazz of Twenty20s will return with the seventh edition of the T20 World Cup scheduled for Australia in late 2020.

The top eight teams in the International Cricket Council (ICC) T20 rankings on 31 December 2018 have automatically qualified for the main event – the Super 12 stage. Full Members Sri Lanka and Bangladesh, and six other teams who will make it through from the ICC T20 World Cup Qualifier will compete in the first round to fill the remaining four slots of the Super 12s.

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Can Sri Lanka Add Another Feather?

Sri Lanka’s chances in the World Test Championship

Sri Lanka in World Test Cricket Championship

Sri Lanka’s Kusal Perera celebrates after leading the team to a famous victory over South Africa in a nail-biting conclusion to the first Test on 16 February 2019. (© Anesh Debiky/AFP/Getty Images)

The newest entrant to Test cricket Ireland had a magical first day in their maiden Test against the inventors of the game, at the Home of Cricket recently. Calling all the shots at the end of the second day, they needed just 182 for what might have been the greatest upset in the history of Test cricket. It was not to be, as on the third morning, they succumbed to 38 and lost by 143 runs! Despite the predictability of the outcome, the Irish did frightened England. Though Ireland will not feature in the inaugural World Test Championship that commenced last month, can their performance inspire Sri Lanka to another fairy-tale finish?

Sri Lanka boasts a credible Test record leading to the World Test Championship, surprisingly rosier than their white-ball cricket. Having played twenty-two Tests across nine series’ in two years; seven away and two at home, they broke even, winning and losing eight Tests each. Strikingly, six of the wins were away from home.

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The Pinnacle of Test Cricket

Preview of the inaugural World Test Championship

World Test Cricket Championship Countries

Cricket’s T20 razzmatazz is a great spectacle, enjoyed by both young and old. For many, however, its five-day version that test the players more than in any other ball game still remains the pinnacle of the sport.

Currently, the champions of Test cricket are decided by the International Cricket Council’s (ICC) Test Team Rankings. These rankings are based on the results of games played as part of regular Test cricket scheduling with no consideration of home or away status. Unlike many other sports, home advantage has remained a distinct and enduring feature of cricket throughout its existence. That is precisely why teams like the 1970s/80s West Indies and Australia of the 1990s/2000s were recognised as all-time bests for their ability to win away from home.

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“We are the Champions” … pause …, “Again!”

Sri Lanka players celebrate as they pose with the ICC World Twenty20 trophy after winning the final match against India at The Sher-e-Bangla National Cricket Stadium in Dhaka, Bangladesh on 6 April 6, 2014.

Nine o’clock, the morning of 6 April 2014, still in bed and staring at the ceiling. Emotions ran high.

“A penny for your thoughts,” said Jagath.

“After four ‘finals’ losses in 2007, 2009, 2011 and 2012, the benefit of the law of averages is long overdue,” I replied.

“They should give a fitting farewell to the twin towers, Mahela and Sanga.” This from Jagath.

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The Player of 1996 Cricket World Cup: Who Deserved It Most – Sanath or Aravinda?

Sanath Jayasuriya and Aravinda de Silva in full cry at the 1996 Wills World Cup.

Sanath Jayasuriya and Aravinda de Silva in full cry at the 1996 Wills World Cup.

Eighteenth March 1996.

The return flight finally took off from Lahore at around 6.00 am. An event that had to wait for twenty-one years happened 35,000 feet in the air. Two ‘wounded soldiers’ on adjoining beds at St Thomas’ Hospital, laid low by an excessively aggressive ‘Mr Thomson’ in the first World Cup in 1975 met in celebration: Duleep Mendis, having presided over the vanquishing of the Australian side as the manager of the Sri Lankan team; Capt. Sunil Wettimuny now flying that victorious team home. Not to be outdone, the same fate decreed that the master-of-ceremonies at the awards ceremony that followed the final, was none other than Ian Chappell. Destiny really did have some tricks up her sleeve!

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Cricket World Cup 2019: The Front-runners

Sri Lankan captain Arjuna Ranatunga proudly holds aloft the 1996 Wills World Cup

Sri Lankan captain Arjuna Ranatunga proudly holds aloft the 1996 Wills World Cup, which he received from the then Pakistan Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, having beaten Australia in the final on 17 March 1996 at the Gaddafi Stadium, Lahore, Pakistan. Master of Ceremonies Ian Chappell is at the extreme left. (Photo by Prasanna Hennayake).

England will host the 12th edition of the Cricket World Cup from 30 May to 14 July, this year. Ten nations would compete in the round-robin format, with the top four teams advancing to knock out stage, semi-finals and final.

At the time of writing, nearly all teams seem to have issues to contend with; that may or may not be overcome prior to the tournament. Hence, prediction of outcomes seven weeks before a high-pressure tournament is a challenge in itself.

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Records by Sri Lankans at Cricket World Cups

Kumar Sangakkara batting against Chris Woakes (England) in Wellington, New Zealand, during the 2015 ICC Cricket World Cup (© Ranjan Mellawa)

Kumar Sangakkara batting against Chris Woakes (England) in Wellington, New Zealand, during the 2015 ICC Cricket World Cup (© Ranjan Mellawa).

Ranjan Mellawa hopes Sri Lanka will be inspired by their past performances in world tournaments and achieve something special at the next World Cup.

As the Cricket World Cup draws nearer, let’s revisit some record-breaking Sri Lankan individual and team performances in previous tournaments.

Sri Lanka was the first Associate team to defeat a Full Member at the World Cup when they beat India by 47 runs in 1979.

When Sri Lanka confronted New Zealand in 1983, an aggregate 29 maiden overs were bowled by both sides, the most in a single World Cup match. In the quiet that ensued, Sri Lanka bowlers delivered 17 of those and helped their team win the 60-over match by 3 wickets, with 43 balls to spare, in a ‘battle of the maidens’ as it were!

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Save the Blushes, Please

Sri Lanka and Afghanistan teams walking into the ground for the national anthems prior to their match in the 2015 Cricket World Cup on 22 February 2015 at the picturesque University Oval, Dunedin, New Zealand. (© Ranjan Mellawa)

Ranjan Mellawa thinks it’s not all doom and gloom for Sri Lanka, and they can still make a good fist of the next World Cup.

In an all-time low, Sri Lanka capitulated to Afghanistan by 91 runs in the Asia Cup 2018. Angelo Mathews, already tipped to lead in the forthcoming World Cup, was axed from both captaincy and the one-day squad.

Previously, Sri Lanka had played Afghanistan in the 2015 World Cup. Lethargic fielding by the Sri Lankans helped Afghanistan post 232 runs.

The first ball of the Sri Lanka innings, trapped Thirimanna lbw. Next over, Dilshan edged a back-of-a-length delivery and was caught behind for no score. Sri Lanka were tottering at 2 for 2 after 1.2 overs. It was only the second time in ODIs that both openers were dismissed for first-ball ducks.

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So Near…

Sri Lanka and Afghanistan teams walking into the ground for the national anthems prior to their match in the 2015 Cricket World Cup

Ranjan Mellawa believes that injury prevention and management, along with the quality of bench strength would be critical success factors at the next World Cup.

Mahela Jayawardena’s masterpiece (103*) gave Sri Lanka a commanding total of 274 for 6 in the 2011 World Cup final. Never before had a Jayawardena century led to a losing cause for Sri Lanka.

The 275 target looked imposing for India. No team batting second had scored more than 250 runs under lights at Wankhede Stadium. Sri Lanka’s varied bowling attack seemed geared to defend the highest run chase in a World Cup final.

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