On Wednesday (March 4), the teams to have won the previous two editions of the ICC T20 World Cup (then known as ICC World T20) will clash against each other at the Pallekele International Cricket Stadium. While Sri Lanka won the tournament in 2014, it was West Indies who turned out victorious in 2016.
Four years on, we are just a few months away from the next T20 World Cup. But in the period since the last edition, both Sri Lanka and West Indies have struggled in the T20 format. Since the 2016 World Cup, in T20Is between the top 10 teams, Sri Lanka (0.48) and West Indies (0.44) find themselves eighth and ninth respectively when it comes to win/loss ratio.
Both teams have faced issues with both their batting and bowling in T20Is in recent years. In matches involving the top 10 teams since the 2016 T20 World Cup, West Indies and Sri Lanka have batting averages of just 18.74 and 18.14 respectively with only Afghanistan below them at this moment.
A surprising fact is that West Indies have an overall batting strike-rate of just 117.71 during this period which is the second lowest. One of the key reasons behind this is that some of their big-hitting batsmen, especially Andre Russell, haven’t played a lot of T20Is over the last few years. Out of the 45 T20Is West Indies have played since the last T20 World Cup, Russell has featured in just six. He will feature in this series though which is a huge boost to the defending T20 world champions
Kieron Pollard, who is the captain of the side, came into the limelight as a big-hitter but since the 2016 T20 World Cup, he has a batting strike-rate of just 115.80 in T20Is. Pollard didn’t perform too well in the ODI series but showed some glimpses of form with a score of 49 in the third game. Since 2019, the West Indies skipper has averaged 35.88 at a strike-rate of 149.9 with the bat in T20 cricket and if he can reproduce similar form here, the away team should do well.
One area where West Indies will need to improve is their ability to rotate the strike in the middle overs. While in matches between the top 10 teams, they have the highest percentage of runs scored in boundaries (54.53) between overs 7-15 since the epic T20 World Cup final in Kolkata in 2016, they also happen to have the highest dot percentage (45). If the team from the Caribbean are able to get more ones and twos in the middle phase of the innings, they should be able to improve their scoring rate considerably as boundaries don’t seem to be a problem.
Sri Lanka also will want to score runs at a quicker rate, especially during the death overs. Since 2018, between overs 16-20, they have have scored 8.3 runs per over with only Pakistan (8.2) having a lower run-rate during this phase of the match. The Lankans have recalled Thisara Perera to their T20I squad and he could add some much-added firepower in the latter half of the innings. Since 2019, Perera has a batting strike rate 203.94 between overs 16-20 in T20 cricket.
The hosts will also want to improve their bowling. Since the 2016 T20 World Cup, they have the worst bowling strike rate (21.9) in matches between the top 10 teams. West Indies are marginally better, having taken a wicket every 21.3 deliveries, but there is a lot of room for improvement on this count for both sides.
With the 2020 T20 World Cup not far away and form not on their side, this series is key for both teams to get some momentum going ahead of the world event. And for that to happen, improved all-round performances are the need of the hour.
Sri Lanka Squad: Lasith Malinga (c), Avishka Fernando, Kusal Mendis, Shehan Jayasuriya, Angelo Mathews, Dasun Shanaka, Thisara Perera, Isuru Udana, Kusal Perera, Niroshan Dickwella, Wanindu Hasaranga, Lakshan Sandakan, Lahiru Kumara, Asitha Fernando
West Indies Squad: Kieron Pollard (c), Sunil Ambris, Darren Bravo, Brandon King, Rovman Powell, Fabian Allen, Roston Chase, Jason Holder, Keemo Paul, Nicholas Pooran, Shai Hope, Sheldon Cottrell, Alzarri Joseph, Romario Shepherd, Hayden Walsh