Sri Lanka’s World Cup fate now in West Indies’ hands

Sri Lanka’s captain Upul Tharanga will return to international cricket after serving a two-match suspension due to a slow over-rate. A similar offense within the next nine months will get him suspended for eight games.

Sri Lanka have failed to seal a direct qualification for the ICC Cricket World Cup in 2019 after losing four straight games in the ongoing bilateral series against India. Sri Lanka required to win two games in the current series to automatically gain qualification for cricket’s showpiece event to be held in England and Wales next time, but their 168-run defeat in the fourth ODI, their heaviest at home, means now West Indies too are in a chance to gain automatic qualification for the World Cup.

Currently Sri Lanka are placed seventh in ICC ODI Rankings while West Indies are eighth. A win over Ireland in the one off ODI and a 4-1 series win over England later this month will help West Indies to knock Sri Lanka out of seventh rank and qualify. Only the top seven ranked teams and hosts England will gain automatic qualification for the World Cup.

A misfiring West Indian side wouldn’t have been a worry for Sri Lanka generally, but the cause for concern is that West Indies Cricket Board has set aside differences and recalled some of their best players like Chris Gayle and Marlon Samuels. While Samuels has not played any ODI cricket this year, Gayle hasn’t featured in an ODI since March 2015. It is too obvious that West Indies are giving their best shot at automatic qualification.

If Sri Lanka failed to qualify for the World Cup through ranking system, they will have to play a qualifying tournament featuring the bottom four ranked teams plus the top four teams from the ICC World Cricket League Championship.

Sri Lanka were whitewashed 5-0 in ODIs this year in South Africa, drew the home series against Bangladesh before being knocked out of the Champions Trophy in the first round itself. After the competition, coach Graham Ford stepped down from his position. Sri Lankan cricket hit a new low when the team suffered a first-ever series defeat to Zimbabwe. Captain Angelo Mathews stepped down from captaincy after the defeat. In the current series against India, the hosts have been comprehensively outplayed. Sri Lanka have never been whitewashed at home before. The last ODI is on Sunday at RPS.

So pathetic has been Sri Lanka’s performance in 2017 that they have been able to win only four of the 20 games this year.

Authorities have blamed the team’s slump due to several injuries, but Sri Lanka’s fielding also has cost them heavily. The national team has been labeled the world’s worst fielding unit after a series of comical fielding displays.

Authorities have vowed to address fielding woes sternly, but still the time allocated by the team to play football during training sessions is far greater than the time they give for fielding.

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