Sri Lanka in 2005

After profitable recent years, particularly at home and spearheaded by a peaking Muralitharan, the Sri Lankan situation transgressed from the land of plenty into ominous times in 2005. Much of their recent success had been built around the remnants of the victorious 1996 World Cup squad, and as the aging champions faded and gradually deteriorated, the weak foundations were revealed. There is an alarming lack of talent coming through, adding further pressure to the existing players.

In a year that started with the tragedy of the Asian Tsunami, which dragged the players from New Zealand to more pressing matters, keeping the team together was always going to be difficult. On their return to New Zealand, in April, they were soundly beaten, though on green-tinged wickets, this was to be expected. They did uncover a future star though in Lasith Malinga as he captured eleven wickets in the series.

The visit by the West Indies was marred by the commercial infighting in the Caribbean, and with the home side strengthened by the return of Muttiah Muralitharan, the tourists provided little opposition. Neither, for that matter, did a disappointing Bangladeshi outfit. In India, the batting line-up disintegrated against the Indian spinners, and the bowlers failed to finish off the Indian lower order.

The ODI season, was likewise, largely a disappointment. It had started positively however, with a victory in the IndianOil Cup, as Mahela Jayawardene struck 230 runs, including 83 in the final against the Indians. Though Bangladesh crumpled in the shortened form of the game, the series provided more than academic interest, due the emergence of Upul Tharanga, a dashing opener.

The real demons of the year emerged in India, where the Sri Lankan bowlers conceded 350 in the first ODI, and never recovered. Already lacking in self-esteem, their confidence was fragmented when they failed to defend 298 in Jaipur, a total dominated by Kumar Sangakkara’s 138*. In the end, they suffered true humiliation and lost the series 6-1.

A huge test of both character and technique beckons in 2006, with a tour to England, where the pitches will undoubtedly be green enough to nullify the threat of Muralitharan. Kumar Sangakkara and Mahela Jayawardene must fulfil their promise and become the mainstays of the batting, while Tillekaratne Dilshan, reborn as an off-spinning all-rounder in ODI cricket, will look to cement a Test place.

Test Player of the Year 2005: Muttiah Muralitharan
ODI Player of the Year 2005: Tillekaratne Dilshan
One to Watch in 2006: Upul Tharanga

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