Best Fifteen-Man Squad for the World Cup
Posted on January 6th, 2011

Dilrook Kannangara

According to ICC ODI rankings Australia and India are at the top of ODI rankings followed by Sri Lanka. This means Sri Lanka stands a very good chance to win the WC2011. Sri Lanka won the World Cup in 1996 but in 1999 it was dismal performance. Again in 2003 we bounced back to come to semi-finals with Australia. Last world cup saw Sri Lanka battling it out it with Australia at the final. Today Sri Lanka is a formidable team in the shorter version of the game. Aravinda de Silva’s involvement at the apex body governing cricket in the country is a blessing. He was an excellent cricketer during his day with his aggressive batting and effective bowling performance. He stood up to the occasion which is a quality of only the very best. A 30 man squad has been named already from which a 15 man final squad will be selected.

 Selection is a critical process that can determine the fortunes of the team. Cricket lovers hold vastly different views on who should be in the squad. A scientific approach is needed to select the squad. Best performers and team players must be in the squad. Apart from individual performance, players’ current form and the grounds, there are other important factors that need to be considered. The twenty over version of the game has transformed the fifty over game into a more aggressive and entertaining batting frenzy. Required run rates that were considered un-gettable a few years ago are no longer so. Anything is possible in today’s fifty over game, so to speak.

 Following analyses are based on each player’s historical performance. It has been done for the 30 man squad already named where there are records. However Tharanga Paranavitana and Nuwan Pradeep have not played ODIs and they are obvious exclusions from the 15 man squad. It is not wise to experiment with new players at the World Cup no matter how good they are.

 Batting Performance

Batting performance of players is analysed below. Average is the batting average. The product of batting average and the strike rate (batting average times strike rate) is the last column and forms the basic criterion for their ranking. Players have been sorted by this product. It gives an idea of the contribution each batsman makes to the total score the team would reach. Some have a higher average while others have a higher strike rate which makes them incomparable. However, when the product is taken, it puts everyone in a comparable level playing field.  

 

PLAYER AVERAGE STRIKE RATE PRODUCT
Dinesh Chandimal             72                  85             61
Tillakaratne Dilshan             35                  87             31
Sanath Jayasuriya             32                  91             30
Kumar Sangakkara             37                  75             28
Angelo Mathews             33                  81             27
Mahela Jayawardene             32                  77             25
Upul Tharanga             33                  73             24
Thilina Kandamby             33                  71             23
Thisara Perera             19                 121             23
Chamara Silva             31                  70             21
Jeevan Mendis             24                  87             20
Thilan Samaraweera             28                  69             19
Thilan Thushara             19                  92             17
Farveez Maharoof             20                  85             17
Chamara Kapugedera             23                  73             17
Lahiru Thirimanne             19                  82             15
Nuwan Kulasekara             17                  71             12
Suraj Randiv             16                  68             11
Chaminda Vaas             14                  73             10
Malinga Bandara             12                  71               9
Dilhara Fernando             10                  62               6
Lasith Malinga               9                  67               6
Muttiah Muralitharan               7                  77               5
Ajantha Mendis               8                  66               5
Dammika Prasad               6                  34               2
Chanaka Welegedara               4                  44               2
Rangana Herath               2                  50               1

 

Data relating to Dinesh and Jeevan are incomplete as they have played a very few number of ODI matches. The only reason to include them is to have a complete list. Their very limited experience in ODIs means they are not to be included in the 15 man squad. Samaraweera ranks above Kapugedara. However, since both batsmen come down in the order they may not have faced enough deliveries to make their average. In that case it is relevant to consider their strike rate to compare them. Samaraweera has a very slow strike rate than Kapugedara which makes the latter have a better chance to make it to the final squad. However, even Kapugedara lacks what it takes to get into the team with his dismal performance ranking below Thilan Thushara and Maharoof. Hoping for a change of fortune at the World Cup is unwise.

 

Although Sanath Jayasuriya comes high in the rankings, his current form makes him unable to get into the squad. Besides, the long tournament of plenty of 50 over matches may not be the ideal form of the game for him who has positioned himself better for the 20 over version.

 Bowling Performance

Bowling performance comprises the bowling average (number of runs given for a wicket) and the economy rate (number of runs per over). Product is the product of the bowling average times the economy rate.

 

PLAYER AVERAGE ECON RATE PRODUCT
Ajantha Mendis            19.37              4.37            11.81
Muttiah Muralitharan            23.11              3.92            11.04
Rangana Herath            23.88              3.83            10.93
Chaminda Vaas            27.53              4.18              8.69
Thisara Perera            21.90              5.37              8.50
Farveez Maharoof            25.89              4.78              8.08
Angelo Mathews            28.33              4.58              7.71
Nuwan Kulasekara            29.14              4.56              7.53
Lasith Malinga            27.77              4.95              7.27
Thilan Thushara            27.86              4.98              7.21
Jeevan Mendis            32.25              4.60              6.74
Dilhara Fernando            29.87              5.20              6.44
Suraj Randiv            33.50              4.65              6.42
Chanaka Welegedara            28.86              5.68              6.10
Malinga Bandara            34.22              5.02              5.82
Sanath Jayasuriya            36.72              4.78              5.70
Tillakaratne Dilshan            42.55              4.74              4.96
Thilan Samaraweera            53.80              4.67              3.98
Dammika Prasad            43.40              6.02              3.83
Mahela Jayawardene            79.71              5.75              2.18
Thilina Kandamby            82.00              5.85              2.08
Suranga Lakmal            74.50              6.62              2.03
Chamara Kapugedera          100.00              5.00              2.00

 Rangana Herath and Jeevan didn’t face enough ODIs to assess their suitability to participate in the World Cup. They are obvious exclusions from the team. Vaas may not be suitable to play as he has not participated in ODIs recently and his form is doubtful. However, some stunning performance in domestic cricket can change his fortunes. Sub-continental pitches have long been his hunting grounds. Yet it is very unlikely. Murali is available to participate and given his good form in the international level, he should be in the team. Murali, Ajantha and possibly Suraj compliment one another and it makes sense to have them all in the 15 man squad. Although Dilhara ranks above Suraj mainly due to his better ability to get a breakthrough, he may not be as good as other frontline attacking bowlers with a better bowling average. South Asian pitches that generally favour spinners means Sri Lanka will have to go with a third dedicated spinner. The absence of Sanath is another factor why a third dedicated spinner is needed to slow things down of the opponents.

 All-rounders in the New Version of the Game

Gone are the days when all-rounders were used to perform a bit of everything well. Today all-rounders must be top ranking players in both the bowling and batting departments. A little of this and that is certainly not enough. Thankfully there are true all-rounders in the 30 man squad. Angelo Matthews and Thisara Perera are fine all-rounders. In addition, top bowlers Maharoof and Thilan Thushara are also good batsmen at the tail end. They got a healthy strike rate required from batsmen of the low order. As mentioned above their batting performance is far better than Kapugedara who is not even a bowler.

 Samaraweera’s bowling performance is not better than even Dilshan and he is not functioning as a bowler nowadays. On batting performance he is out and his bowling figures does not warrant him a place in the 15 member squad. Jeevan Mendis is an interesting player although he has not faced many ODIs. He is a good batsman and a good bowler based on the limited number of ODIs he has played. His First Class performance is very promising. He also brings leg-spin to the game which is fascinating. He certainly will not be a mere passenger if selected to the squad.

 The Fifteen Man Squad  

Based on the above calculations, the 15 man squad should be:

Tillakaratne Dilshan, Mahela Jayawardene, Kumar Sangakkara, Upul Tharanga, Angelo Mathews, Thilina Kandamby, Chamara Silva, Thisara Perera, Farveez Maharoof, Thilan Thushara, Nuwan Kulasekara, Lasith Malinga, Suraj Randiv, Ajantha Mendis, Muttiah Muralitharan.

 Having said that, the selection committee must take into account the current form of Maharoof, Thilan Thushara, Suraj Randiv, Jeevan Mendis, Dilhara, Chaminda Vaas and Chamara Silva. Although Maharoof and Thushara are preferred over Dilhara in both bowling and batting, Dilhara may come back into the fold as he has done many a time with stunning performance before the finalisation of the 15 man squad. The domestic tournament which is in full gear now may shed some light on this. However, international conditions are far different to domestic conditions.

 Suraj may be replaced by Jeevan depending on their form and current performance. Replacing Chamara Silva with a better run scorer is not a bad idea.

 Effectiveness of the squad and the team will be measured by the team’s performance. Selectors must ensure the best team goes out to play. At the end of the day, it may not be all science. Intuition also plays a part in it. Team Sri Lanka captain who is literally at the centre of activity in the field must have a say in it too.

 Annexure

Batting Performance

 Bowling Performance

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