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11 December 2023

Sri Lanka praying for return of Malinga

Lasith Malinga of Sri Lanka bowling during the T20 match between the Sussex Sharks and Sri Lanka played at the BrightonandHoveJobs.com County Ground, on May 18, 2014 in Hove, England. (GETTY)

By Reuters

Sri Lankan batting stalwarts Kumar Sangakkara and Mahela Jayawardene are eyeing the perfect finish to their illustrious 50-over careers by winning the World Cup next month after two near misses.

While right-handed Jayawardene will quit all forms of the game after the Feb. 14-March 29 event, the left-handed Sangakkara may yet continue to play Test cricket.

Their retirement, though, could be seen as a good omen.
When the duo, the leading active run-scorers in 50-over cricket, announced their intention to quit the shortest format of the game prior to the 2014 Twenty20 World Cup, Sri Lanka went on to win the tournament in Bangladesh.

The island nation, who won the 1996 50-over World Cup and finished runners-up at the last two editions, will hope lightning strikes twice.

"We may not have won those two tournaments, but reaching two successive finals showed we played consistently well," Jayawardene, who has amassed over 12,500 runs in ODIs, said.

"Hopefully we can cross the line this time."

Sangakkara is the highest run-getter for Sri Lanka in the format with 13,693 runs and will hope to continue his prolific form at the showpiece event.

While the duo, along with captain and all-rounder Angelo Mathews, will lead a strong batting attack, Sri Lanka's bowling has looked weak in recent matches.

The fitness of pace spearhead Lasith Malinga has been a huge headache and the availability of the mercurial fast bowler is crucial to Sri Lanka's prospects in Australia and New Zealand, where they have been drawn in Pool A alongside the two co-hosts, England, Bangladesh, Afghanistan and Scotland.

Sri Lanka lost a seven-match series 4-2 in New Zealand last month after their bowlers allowed the hosts to recover from precarious positions on more than one occasion.

Chief selector Sanath Jayasuriya expressed his displeasure with the performance of the bowling attack while praying for the return to full fitness of the 31-year-old Malinga.

"The bowling department is an area of concern. They need to plan for things they should do when it comes to a crunch situation," the former opening batsman said.

"We lack experience in our bowling at the moment in the absence of Lasith Malinga which is huge. (Nuwan) Kulasekera and (Suranga) Lakmal have come back from injuries and are bowling alright.

"Lasith has shown no signs of discomfort and he will be increasing his workload gradually. I think he will be alright for the World Cup."