Sri Lanka were one of the favourites heading into the ICC Cricket World Cup 2015, but for the first time since 2003, Sri Lanka failed to make it to the finals of the grand event. Finalists in 2007 and 2011, this year's World Cup presented the two greats of Sri Lankan cricket - Kumar Sangakkara and Mahela Jayawardene - with their last shot at cricketing glory, but that was not to be as they were knocked out in the quarter-finals. A lot was expected of the bowling attack led by Lasith Malinga, but the slinger came a cropper and despite Sangakkara's brilliant form, lack of team effort and a string of injuries hurt the 1996 champions.
Record in the WC: Played 7, Won 4, Lost 3
After a sedate start to their campaign during which they lost to New Zealand in the opener and were stretched by Afghanistan, Sri Lanka got into the groove putting in two solid batting performances that saw them lose just two wickets in two matches. Tillakaratne Dilshan (161*) and Kumar Sangakkara (105*) combined for an unbeaten 210-run stand to blow away Bangladesh, but their high point came in the next game in which they clinically dispatched England. Joe Root's valiant 121 had helped England to a total of 309, but Lahiru Thirimanne (139*) and Kumar Sangakkara (117*) made a mockery of the big chase at Westpac Stadium, Wellington, chasing down the target with nine wickets in hand and 16 balls to spare.
Getting knocked out of the World Cup will be the low point for any team, but Sri Lanka's abject surrender to spin was a shocker in the quarter-final against South Africa. The match was the most anticipated encounter of the quarter-finals, but turned out to be a cakewalk for the Porteas. A fantastic fast bowling spell by Dale Steyn and Kyle Abbott had pushed Sri Lanka on the backfoot early on, but no one expected Imran Tahir and JP Duminy to bamboozle a strong Sri Lankan middle-order. The duo combined for 17.2 overs giving away just 55, taking seven wickets. Sri Lanka were bundled out for 133 despite winning the toss and batting first. Sri Lanka's decision to play rookies Tharindu Kaushal and Dushmantha Chameera in a knock-out game also backfired and the most dominant team in the previous two World Cups bowed out rather meekly.
Angelo Mathews has been a fine leader for Sri Lanka, but he was not able inspire the team to work as a unit. As a player, Mathews under-performed with the ball, while scoring 195 runs including a fifty in the five innings he came out to bat. A string of injuries did not help his cause as he had to lose the services of an in-form Dinesh Chandimal, Rangana Herath and Dammika Prasad during the course of the campaign.
Most valuable player
Playing in his final World Cup, Kumar Sangakkara reaffirmed his status as one of the modern greats of the game scoring 541 runs at an average of 108.20 for Sri Lanka and even during the quarter-final, he was the only player to put up any kind of resistance against South Africa. He was repeatedly asked during the post-match conferences about his fitness and even though his reply was that he doesn't know how much his body could take, the fact that he scored four consecutive centuries was testimony of his superior skill as a batsman.
There are a few disappointing performances for Sri Lanka in this World Cup, but the two who failed to create any impact were Lasith Malinga and Thisara Perera. Malinga has set such high standards when it comes to bowling in ODIs that even decent stats of 12 wickets at an average of 29.50 makes for feeble reading for someone of the calibre of Malinga. It should also be noted that Malinga did not get support from his fellow pace bowlers. With Prasad ruled out of the tournament without playing a single game, the likes of Nuwan Kulasekara and Suranga Lakmal had to step up, but failed to do so. Bowling allrounder Thisara Perera was another big disappointment as he was supposed to be the player who lent balance to the team and was expected to shine with both bat and ball. But in the six matches he played, Perera scored 62 runs and took six wickets giving away runs at an economy of 6.74 and looked to be a liability in the field too.
Looking at Sri Lanka's previous two World Cup campaigns, it would not be wrong to say that the 2015 run was a poor one. A worrying fact for Sri Lanka was also that the top performers for the team were the two old warhorses - Dilshan and Sangakkara - and none from the new crop made any significant impact, barring Lahiru Thirimanne. Injuries too played a huge role in their weak performance and this campaign was also, in a way, a wake-up call for the team as to how to take their team forward once the famed stalwarts hang up their boots.