And so, Sri Lanka make it to yet another final. But, that is not the tough part for them. Winning the summit clash is what that proved to be their bane. After famously lifting the World Cup crown in 1996 under Arjuna Ranatunga, they went down Australia in the 2007 World Cup and to India four years later. The story has been similar in the World T20 as well. They were undone by Pakistan in the 2009 edition and couldn’t overcome the West Indian challenge in 2012 at home. For sure, they need to break a jinx of sorts to lift the title.
Apart from it being the final of the World T20, there will be additional pressure on Sri Lanka since the match will also signal the end of Mahela Jayawardene and Kumar Sangakkara’s T20 international careers. Like in the Tests and the 50-over version, Jayawardene and Sangakkara have been two stalwarts of Sri Lankan cricket in T20s as well. Thus, the Lankan team would feel obligated to give them a fitting a farewell. And what better way than lifting the World T20 crown on Sunday to pay tribute to them?
On a personal note, both Jayawardene and Sangakkara would like to come good on the big day against old nemesis India. Jayawardene has had a mixed tournament so far, with the blistering 89 against England followed by low scores and the run-out against Windies without facing a ball. Sangakkara, on the other hand, has seen a sudden dip in form after a brilliant run in international cricket. He has in fact had one of his most forgettable international outings. But, all that would count for nothing if he manages to fire in the final. India need to guard against the two, who would be inspired to bow out on a high.
Unlike in the semis against West Indies, Sri Lanka would need to adopt a different strategy against India. Skipper Lasith Malinga was superb against Gayle and co, but of all international teams, India have found him easiest to deal with. One of the main reasons for the same is the fact that Virat Kohli has gotten under his skin. In fact, Kohli has done exceptionally well against Sri Lanka on a whole. For Lanka to win the final, their bowlers will have to dismissal him early. Perhaps, they could risk playing the unpredictable Ajantha Mendis, who has troubled Kohli in the past.
India and Sri Lanka have met in numerous finals over the years. And while the results have been distributed evenly, in the MS Dhoni era, India have definitely held the upper hand over their Asian opponents. Thus, to outdo the Indians in the final, Lanka would have to overcome the failures of the recent past, and put up a thoroughly professional show. On paper, they have the men who can match India’s performance and talent. But, what would make the difference in the final is who delivers to potential and doesn’t succumb under the pressure.
--By A Cricket Analyst