Since the start of 2016, Sri Lanka have lost 123 of their 204 international matches with only 62 wins. The team from the Island nation has suffered defeat in 23 of their 52 Tests, 59 of their 92 ODIs and 41 of their 60 T20Is during this period.
Sri Lanka are languishing at eighth, ninth and eighth in the Test, ODI and T20I rankings, respectively. They also finished eighth in the nine-team World Test Championship standings and are under serious threat of missing out on direct qualification for the 2023 World Cup in India via the ICC Super League.
From a team that played an enterprising brand of cricket and consistently punched above its weight through the 90s and also early 2000s, Sri Lanka have become one of the easy pushovers of world cricket. A fact that must be a cause of disappointment for Sri Lanka’s passionate fans and their legendary figures from the past.
Occasional triumphs aside, Sri Lanka are going through an unprecedented decline in their fortunes in the international arena, with their school cricket structure and club system in need of upliftment and the game across the country reeling from maladministration and corruption.
However, no matter what, the decision-makers have been quick to put the blame for each defeat on the players, coaches and the management. It is them who have had the onus to overcome the insipid structure, produce consistent results and also take responsibility for losses that would in any ideal system trigger a revamp.
To hide their own fallacies and avoid having to refine the entire setup, Sri Lanka’s cricket administrators keep making tweaks, including sudden appointment and removal of captains and coaches, which further dent a national side in desperate need of confidence and stability.
Sri Lanka earlier this week appointed Kusal Perera as their new ODI captain and Dasun Shanaka as leader in T20Is ahead of the Bangladesh series. While you would hope Perera and Shanaka relieve Sri Lanka of their misery and revive their standard of play at the highest level, one can’t help but keep the expectations in check and fear that they too could suffer the fate their predecessors did.
In a five-year period since 2016, Sri Lanka have had several different captains across formats, who were just as quickly sacked as they were appointed. These gents tried their best to keep Sri Lanka competitive and relevant but faced the wrath of selfish decision-makers the moment things ultimately fell apart.
Excluding those like Lahiru Thirimanne (2 matches), Chamara Kapugedera (1), Rangana Herath (5), Suranga Lakmal (5) and even Shanaka (3) who filled in as captain very shortly, here is a list of players who have led Sri Lanka in the last five years for decent amount of games.
Players to have captained Sri Lanka in the last 5 years
1. Dimuth Karunaratne
Removed as ODI captain this week, Karunaratne has led Sri Lanka in 31 international games since 2016 with 15 victories and 11 losses. He was Sri Lanka’s captain for the 2019 World Cup in the UK where they were certainly more competitive than fans and experts thought they will be.
Karunaratne hasn’t just been removed as ODI captain but also dropped as a batsman for the coming trip to Bangladesh. He remains at the helm of affairs in Tests, but given it’s Sri Lanka, we can’t be sure for how long?
2. Angelo Mathews
Mathews captained Sri Lanka in 49 matches after the start of 2016 until he was removed unceremoniously. He oversaw a pretty disastrous period post the retirements of legends Mahela Jayawardene and Kumar Sangakkara, with Sri Lanka winning only 15 and losing 30 of those matches.
Mathews’ men went from one drubbing to the other as they couldn’t cope up with some deeper, structural flaws. The experienced batsman was ultimately sacked by Sri Lanka Cricket (SLC), made a scapegoat for the team’s regular defeats.
3. Dinesh Chandimal
With Chandimal at the helm, post 2016, Sri Lanka suffered 24 losses in their 43 matches at the international stage and won just 13. While the team managed reasonably well in ODIs and T20Is under him, their issues were laid bare in Test matches as Chandimal and company won just 4 and lost 10 of their 19 games.
4. Upul Tharanga
Tharanga captained 28 international matches for Sri Lanka from 2016 to 2017 but could manage only 7 victories to his name. Sri Lanka faced 19 defeats under Tharanga before the captaincy badge was taken away from him. In the ODIs, especially, Tharanga struggled to help Sri Lanka overcome their problems as the team suffered 16 losses in 22 matches and won just 4.
5. Lasith Malinga
At a time when he was himself copping up with injuries and trying his best to prolong his international career, Sri Lanka gave the captaincy to experienced paceman Lasith Malinga. But even the great Malinga couldn’t rejuvenate Sri Lanka as they lost all of their 9 ODIs under him and also suffered defeats in 12 of their 16 T20Is.
6. Thisara Perera
All-rounder Thisara Perera also wore the captaincy hat for a short period, with the selectors going down his path in search of a hero who could bail the national team out. But Sri Lanka’s misery continued as Perera and company won only one of their three ODIs under him and lost all of their nine T20Is.