Sri Lanka: The best second best team around

Last Updated: Thu, Mar 08, 2012 12:09 hrs

So the Sri Lankans edged out India and gave a great fight to Australia to emerge as runners up in the CB Series.

In the first final, the Lankans showed some fight to go from 144-6 to 306 in their chase for 321.

In the second final, they played brilliantly to come back and square the finals 1-1.

In the third they restricted the hosts to 231, but still couldn’t shut out the match.

While their performance is commendable, one cause of worry is that they have come out No.2 yet again and probably are turning out to be the best second best team around.

Two World Cup Final Losses: In the 2007 ODI World Cup, while India and Pakistan crashed out early, the Lankans held the sub-continent’s flag high. They kicked out India and topped the group. They were the second best team in the Super 8 stage and beat the Kiwis handsomely in the semis.

But in the final, they were no match for the Aussies and perished without a fight.

Clint McKay five-for helps Australia clinch tri-series

The 2011 WC was even more tragic. They were second best in the group stage and then comprehensively won the quarters and semis. With India they put up a fighting target of 275, something which had never been chased in a WC final and yet India won quite comfortably.

To be runners up twice in a row must really hurt.

England used to do that regularly once and they never really recovered in ODIs.

Best No. 2 in Tests Too: In Tests the story has been much the same. If one looks at the Top 5 teams (in terms of consistency) since the ICC Test rankings were introduced, then one would probably pick Australia, England, India, South Africa and Sri Lanka.

All five teams got a crack at the No. 1 status and four did indeed get their goal. Only one team missed out. No prizes for guessing who: Sri Lanka.

In fact things really hotted up in 2009, when South Africa toppled Australia for the first time ever. In November 2009, South Africa was at the top with 122 points, followed by Sri Lanka at 120 and India at 119.

Sri Lanka toured India and needed to win to get the No. 1 rankings, not a difficult thing to do for it was after all the sub-continent, where they have done spectacularly in ODIs. However India thrashed their opponents 2-0 (and stayed at the top for 20 months) and Sri Lanka have been totally out of the reckoning after that.

Most well-balanced team: What one fails to understand is that despite having one of the best

all-round teams, Sri Lanka has still been unable to convert themselves into long-term world champions.

Kumar Sangakkara has a better Test batting average than India's Big 3 with Mahela Jayawardane and Tillakaratne Dilshan in fine nick. Sri Lanka has a solid batting line-up.

Lasith Malinga is one of the most feared fast bowlers in the world, but now he is unwilling to play Tests. He carried on the tradition of Chaminda Vaas, who was one of the top pacers of the world at his time.

Muttiah Muralitharan, who retired just in 2011, has an astonishing 1300+ international wickets. Ajantha Mendis and Rangana Herath have carried the spin flame forward.

Both Sangakkara and Jayawardane have proved to be able captains and the Lankans are also one of the best fielding teams around.

The team always gives its 100% and is not riled with the kind of rift associated with Pakistan in particular and India in general.

CB series 2012

And yet, they have not been able to convert that into being No. 1 in any form of the game.

Their lack of success in the T20 format is also surprising. One would have thought it would be tailor-made for them.

Asia Cup Stronghold: Sri Lanka won 3/4 Asia Cups from 1997-2008. They were clearly the best in Asia. But India wrested even that in 2010 when they beat Lanka in the final by a whopping 81 runs.

The coming edition of the Asia Cup will indeed be crucial. Sri Lanka have to win to gain momentum to become a great team from simply being a good team all the time.

From 2000-07, Australia and Sri Lanka were the most successful teams in finals.

India were the "final chokers" at that time.

If Sri Lanka continue to play the way they are playing, then that tag could well apply to them now.

The author is a Bengaluru-based journalist and blogger.

He blogs at

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