Why Sri Lanka has not won a second World Cup | Sunday Observer

Why Sri Lanka has not won a second World Cup

26 July, 2020
Members of the Sri Lanka team come together at the 2019 World Cup
Members of the Sri Lanka team come together at the 2019 World Cup

Succession Planning is a procedure for recognizing and expanding new pioneers who can supplant old pioneers when they leave, resign or die. Succession Planning builds the accessibility of experienced and able representatives that are set up to accept these jobs as they become accessible.

Sri Lanka, having been granted Test status since July 1981 as the eighth Test playing country, needed to hold up until September 6, 1985, when Sri Lanka recorded their first Test victory by beating India, in the second match of the arrangement by 149 runs at the P Saravanamuttu Stadium, Colombo. As of July 1, 2020, Sri Lanka have played 289 Test matches, have won 92 matches and lost 109 matches while 88 matches were drawn.

Sri Lanka recorded their first ODI win against India at Manchester, England, on June 16, 1979. As of July 1, 2020, Sri Lanka have played 852 ODI matches, winning 389 matches and losing 421. They tied five matches while 37 had no results. They reached the top by winning the 1996 Cricket World Cup. They were the co-champions in the 2002 ICC Champions Trophy and they became Asian bosses in 1986, 1997, 2004, 2008 and 2014 in addition to their World Cup runner up titles in 2007 and 2011.

Sri Lanka played their first Twenty20 International (T20I) at the Rose Bowl, on June 15, 2006, against England, winning the match by 2 runs. In 2014, they won the 2014 ICC World Twenty20, crushing India by six wickets. As of July 1, 2020 they have played 127 Twenty20 matches and won 59, lost 64, tied 2 and had no results in two matches.

Though Volleyball is the national game in Sri Lanka, Cricket won the heart of every Sri Lankan and with international fame cash started to flow in from all around the world for cricket particularly, after the victory of the World Cup in 1996. There are about 24 First Class cricket playing teams in Sri Lanka. However, the number of these teams vary as per the decision of the prevailing board of Sri Lanka Cricket. If we are to count the top cricket players in the country per year, it is around 24 into 15, that is 360 players. However only 15 players get an opportunity, to get into the Sri Lankan squad and the second string 15-man squad is nominated as the Sri Lankan A team.


A. The Sri Lankan cricket team after rising to the top in 1996 maintained the standard till 2015. However the team hit the floor in 1999 in spite of having outstanding cricket players most of whom were senior players from the 1996 World Cup squad. This could be due to overconfidence, autocratic decisions of senior player (s) or some other unforeseen reasons.

B. Sri Lankan team had players with high potential in 2003. However, they lost the semi-final to Australia. But in 2007 and 2011, both teams comprised of top-ranking bowlers and batsmen, who made the team reach the final. Perhaps the most unfortunate fact with regard to the 2007 final loss was that the person who had represented the Sri Lankan squad since 1996 and captained the Test and one-day team during 2004-2005 was on the bench during the most number of matches in World Cup series, 2007. He is none other than the stylish batman Marvan Atapattu.

C. If we analyze who represented the Sri Lankan team after 1996, we can see more than five players who had played in at least two or more World Cup tournaments and at the same time team captains with more than three World Cup experiences except Angelo Mathews, who captained the 2015 team. He had played eight or nine matches in the 2011 World Cup and unfortunately missed the final due to bad selection where the Selectors had given the opportunity to Chamara Kapugedara who had played only one match in that tournament to play in the final. But how many players of the 2019 squad had played more than three World Cup tournaments?

D. According to the analysis I have conducted (shown below), the drawback of Sri Lankan cricket started after the 2015 World Cup tournament due to the retirement of two most talented players namely Mahela Jayawardena and Kumar Sangakkara. If the selectors had done proper Succession Planning after winning the World Cup in 1996, this would not have come about. The first mistake they made before the 2003 World Cup was not appointing Roshan Mahanama as the captain. However that was not much highlighted as Sanath Jayasuriya also had a similar experience and exposure in the same year.

E. In addition, as per the figures shown below, the downfall started by not re-appointing Marvan Atapattu as the captain of the World Cup team in 2007. If cricket authorities had considered Succession Planning and had forethoughts for Sri Lankan cricket, they should have nominated Mahela Jayawardane as the captain in 2011, Kumar Sangakkara in 2015 and Angelo Mathews in 2019.

F. This could have prevented the retirement of Kumar Sangakkara after the 2015 World Cup as well. Further, if this was to take place, Mathews would have had two World Cup tournament experiences prior to the 2019 World Cup.

G. A similar situation arose in 2019, where Dimuth Karunaratne was appointed as captain, a little before the World Cup tournament in that year. He had only one World Cup experience where he played only four matches in the 2015 tournament and had the opportunity to bat only in two innings. In his squad in 2019, he had eight players in their very first World Cup and four players who had played in one World Cup tournament. But Jeewan Mendis came into the squad out of the blues, after nearly three years of not playing international matches. There were three other players who had played in two World Cup tournaments before 2019, Angelo Mathews, Lasith Malinga and Thisara Perera.

H. When we consider other players (apart from Captains), in 1999 the team had only four players who debuted in that year for the World Cup, in 2003 had eight players debuting but six players were playing their third world Cup and one player playing his second world Cup. In 2007 they had six players playing in their first World Cup. The 2011 squad had six such players and seven such players in 2015 and eight such players in 2019. Out of these eight players, most of them did not have experience of more than even 20 ODI matches prior to the World Cup. When we consider the above factors, it is proved that the 2019 squad was not selected according to any proper criteria. Some have been chosen with no justification as to why they were selected.


Therefore, in order to overcome this kind of a situation, Sri Lanka Cricket should also have a proper mechanism like in other sports and other cricketing nations.

India has groomed MS Dhoni during Sachin, Ganguli and Rahul’s period. Before Dhoni retired as a Captain and a team player, they had elevated Virat Kohli as a successor and now they are bringing up Rohit Sharma.

The team which won the most number of World Cups, Australia, also had a better Succession Plan for the captain as well as for other team players.

When we consider other sports such as rugby and football, most of the reputed countries also have adopted best Succession Plans in order to finalize their present and future teams. Former Australian captain Steve Waugh also has written an article about the importance of succession planning.

A few years ago the Chairman of Selectors in India said: “We made some tough decisions along the way – like dropping Sourav Ganguly and Zaheer Khan – but only with the intention of forging a solid team. It was not the easiest of things to do in this country and some players asked me hard questions. But it was really up to them to pull up their socks and come back with better fitness and an attitude that works for the team.”

Therefore, I would recommend following practices and procedures for the betterment of Sri Lanka cricket.

A. The number of first class cricket playing clubs should be limited to less than 16. This will help the selectors to have the best of the best and to observe each and every player before selecting.

B. Sri Lanka should come up with a ranking system, in which all the players playing for the first class clubs should be ranked according to their skills displayed at the premier tournament and should incorporate marks for international matches as well.

C. There should be two teams as the Sri Lanka squad and Sri Lanka A team, where the A team players should succeed to play in the Sri Lankan squad.

D. Those who have the potential to be a Captain should be earmarked at the initial stages and they should be groomed accordingly. They are not required to be legends, like Mahela, Sangakkara or Muralideran, but should have secured a place in the first 11 players.

E. Sri Lanka Cricket should also earmark players for Test and limited over games separately.

Therefore, it is suggested for all those interested in sports to have a hawk eye on the term Succession Planning. According to the research conducted by Bo Hanson the Olympian, Coaching Consultant and Director of Athlete Assessments in Australia and as per the article published by sport taranaki in New Zealand, has found the following steps for better succession planning.

A. Identify Key Positions and Players

B. Identify skills required to fill critical roles

C. Locate and consider possible successors / identify potential successors

D. Develop and prepare potential successors / commit to Developing Existing and Future Talent

E. Evaluate your Succession Plan

Succession Planning is a valuable but somewhat less used concept in sports. Rather than a panic-driven effort to fill vacancies as they occur, Succession Planning emphasizes a commitment to long term strategic planning to meet talent needs. A Succession Plan provides opportunities for potential leaders within the team to be identified and developed in readiness to be moved into leadership positions. Teams that plan for smooth transitions of leadership positions are less likely to experience disruptions to their operations and can do better in position to replace volunteers who vacate their current positions. In spite of having its tremendous utility in sports, the term Succession Planning should be focused by Sri Lankan Cricket authorities.

The writer is a retired Major MBA (OUSL), psc, Chartered HR professional, FCIPM

Former Vice President Anuradhapura District Cricket Association

Former Secretary – Army Cricket Committee