West Indies and Sri Lanka will kick off what seems like an unnecessary tri-series, just days after the Champions Trophy ended in England. Both teams are well-matched, as a result of which a close contest can be expected. On another note although West Indies were knocked out in the league phase of the Champions Trophy even as Sri Lanka made it to the semi-finals, the hosts will still have a slight advantage. They have better players to exploit the known conditions at home. Also, Sri Lanka do not visit the Caribbean often, so this is another area where they can be found out.
Key players for Sri Lanka
Upul Tharanga: The elegant left petered away after making an inspired debut back in 2005. He then returned a few years later, this time as a middle-order bat, and made an impression with some handy knocks in tough circumstances. However, he again lost his place in the side as Lanka found some exceptional talents down the order. He is back now, at the top of the order, replacing the injured Tillakaratne Dilshan. With the other opener Kusal Perera struggling for runs, Lanka would be hoping that the experienced Tharanga rises to the challenge.
Lasith Malinga: The Windies do not fear pace bowling, but most of them have high backlifts, and the slinger Malinga can expose this aspect of their batting with his deadly yorkers. If he can get his line and length right, Malinga has the capability to run through the West Indies batting line up. The Lankans must be aware that West Indians are prone to batting collapses, and this is where they would want Malinga to step up. Of late, Malinga’s consistency has been a big disappointing so it remains to be seen what he delivers.
Key players for West Indies
Chris Gayle: As always, the explosive West Indian opener will be crucial to the Caribbean’s fortunes in the game. If he can give the team a quick start, Gayle will immediately put Sri Lankan on the back foot. Further, if he can carry on and register a big score, Lanka’s chances of winning the game will be automatically reduced. One thing is for sure, if Gayle gets a substantial score, he will do so at a fast clip, which will also give the other batsmen a chance to bat at their own pace, and benefit Windies immensely.
Darren Sammy: He was dropped for West Indies’ first match in the Champions Trophy, which was immediately after Dwayne Bravo replaced him as skipper. But, in his first game on comeback, against India in the same tournament, Sammy proved why he has now become an indispensable part of the playing eleven. He played a smashing innings against the Indians, which helped West Indies recover from a precarious position. It is clear now that Sammy has the ability to play match-defining knocks. With the ball as well, his medium pace can come in handy to break partnerships. In addition, he is a brilliant fielder as well.
--By A Cricket Analyst