By Michael Roberts | March 15, 2016
Sri Lanka's first ICC World Twenty20 2016 match is against Afghanistan on March 17. © Nathan Shanmuganathan
"Dim and Slim." That is my response to the question presented about Sri Lanka's chances of doing well at the World Twenty20 in India. I was going to add another hit-line as caveat: "but that can be a plus — with nothing to lose Lanka can spring surprises."
Shucks! Angelo Mathews has pre-empted my striking point: "If you look at it from the outside, no one will give us a chance. And that is a good thing. We can go out and express ourselves," said the Sri Lanka captain a few days back. Good thinking, good psychology. Good captaincy.
But thinking in hard-headed and uncompromising lines, Sri Lanka's prospects in the World T20 are surely poor and minuscule. The world's gamblers have been quite firm on that point.
$6 South Africa
$10 New Zealand
$13 West Indies
$21 Sri Lanka
Afghanistan has not entered the affray when that array of odds and returns was forecast. It will not surprise me if they begin to match Sri Lanka when the odds are finalized and it will not surprise me if they beat Sri Lanka when they meet (depending, as usual, on who wins the toss, the dew factor if any and umpteen imponderables).
The estimates worked out by gambling men are not to be laughed at. The only surprise in this listing is Pakistan's position. They have immense talent these Pakistanis, some sharp pacemen, several all-rounders and several blitzkrieg batsmen. One wonders, therefore, if the gambling syndicate is Hindu or if they reckon the Indian environment will be hostile (in the manner IPL which has carefully sidelined the Pakistanis tout court).
The best path for Sri Lankan patriot gamblers, perhaps, is to place moderate bets on Sri Lanka's individual games (where, however, the odds will be different). Without high expectations and with nothing to lose their adherence to Angelo's philosophy could just reap rewards against, say, the Windies or England or South Africa in ways that will please such die-hard Sri Lankan gamblers.
One cricket buff-reporter in Lanka did indicate that Sri Lanka was lucky to be in a cluster that did not have India and Australia. Yes, true. But as the recent series in South Africa indicated, both those teams have several batsmen whose strike-rate is pretty high, both higher up the order and in the middle ranks. That range of capacity is what makes a difference between victory and loss in fast-moving T20 matches.
Thisara Perera (145.65), Milinda Siriwardena (137.16) and Mathews (120.72) are the only middle-order men with batting strike-rates above 120 (Chandimal's is only 102.82 so his recent success as an opener is a welcome shift).
So, in tough-talk terms, Sri Lanka's prospects are, yes, dim and slim. So the philosophy should be that proposed by Mathews: go out there and enjoy, nothing to lose, lads.
© Island Cricket