Picking the All-Time Great Sri Lanka Test XI
Sri Lanka has a rich cricketing history, producing countless great players that have graced the international stage.
With batsmen that score heavily, bowlers that take tremendous amounts of wickets and a certain record-breaking off-spinner, the Sri Lankans have seen their fair share of world-class cricketers.
How would a best Sri Lankan XI of all time look? Who would make the final team, and who would be left on the sidelines?
Let’s have a go at putting one together. Leave your comments below if you think there’s anyone missing.
All stats courtesy of ESPNCricinfo.
First in our list of honorable mentions is Russel Arnold, a man who reinvented himself as a lower-order batsman, having begun his career as an opener.
Despite what appears to be a modest record, Arnold had a cool head and was able to adapt to various situations, whether that be the need to counter-attack or defend for the draw.
An honorable mention goes to batsman Thilan Samaraweera, a patient accumulator of runs who can wear down opposition bowlers.
It says something of the strength of the batting order that Samaraweera cannot find a place in the middle order, especially given his final average of 48.76.
However, he definitely earns an honorable mention, having matured as a player as time went on before his retirement earlier this year.
Somachandra de Silva
A leg-spinner who was unlucky that Sri Lanka gained Test status in the twilight of his career, Somachandra de Silva gains an honorable mention.
Despite playing just 12 Tests, de Silva offered plenty with bat and ball, with his first wicket being that of David Gower in Sri Lanka’s inaugural Test in 1982.
1. Sanath Jayasuriya
110 Tests; 6,973 runs; 40.07 average; 340 highest score
At the top of the order for this Sri Lanka all-time XI is Sanath Jayasuriya, a man who began his career as a left-arm spinner who batted in the lower order.
His exploits at the 1996 World Cup changed all that, and from then on Jayasuriya was an opening batsman who scored at an incredibly fast rate regardless of the form of the game he was playing.
With 14 Test hundreds to his name, including 213 at The Oval against England in 1998 and 340 at Colombo against India in 1997, this was a man who knew how to build a big score.
Against any new-ball attack, Jayasuriya could be lethal at the top of the order.
2. Marvan Atapattu
90 Tests; 5,502 runs; 39.02 average; 249 highest score
Alongside Jayasuriya is his longtime ally as opener: Marvan Atapattu.
The perfect foil for the big-hitting left-hander, Atapattu made a habit of making big scores, and while he did not do so at a very fast rate, he was incredibly tough to get out.
His final average suffered somewhat due to a painful introduction into Test cricket, as it took him around seven years to establish himself in the team after debuting in 1990.
However, once he was settled he never looked back, with his six double-centuries in Tests only surpassed by Brian Lara, Walter Hammond (seven each) and Don Bradman (12).
3. Kumar Sangakkara (w)
117 Tests; 10,486 runs; 56.98 average; 287 highest score
Keeping wicket and batting at No. 3 is a man still going strong in Sri Lanka’s top order, even at the age of 36.
Kumar Sangakkara is one of the most graceful and elegant batsmen in Sri Lankan history, and he manages to couple this beauty with an insatiable hunger for runs.
His batting has even stayed consistent despite his regular spells of keeping wicket, with the left-hander one of the better batsmen this century for any team.
4. Mahela Jayawardene
138 Tests; 10,806 runs; 49.56 average; 374 highest score
The lynchpin of this batting lineup is another man still plying his trade for Sri Lanka, as Mahela Jayawardene is another who has continued to maintain high standards in his game.
When he first arrived on the international stage, the hype was enormous, but Jayawardene has managed to live up to, and exceed, expectations in all forms of the game.
In Tests he remains a fearsome prospect for bowlers to face, especially as he is able to score runs all around the wicket and has few obvious weaknesses.
He also grew into a strong and astute captain who reads the game with authority, showing what a truly marvellous player Jayawardene has been.
5. Aravinda de Silva
93 Tests; 6,361 runs; 42.97 average; 267 highest score
In at No. 5 comes Aravinda de Silva, a man whose innings were always entertaining for all to watch.
It says something about de Silva’s durability that he barely missed a game for his country during his 18-year international career, which began in 1984 in Sri Lanka’s first game in England.
He showcased brilliant strokes all around the wicket and retained his ability to entertain throughout his long career, which ended with the 2003 World Cup.
6. Arjuna Ranatunga (c)
93 Tests; 5105 runs; 35.69 average; 135* highest score
Arjuna Ranatunga made his debut in Sri Lanka’s inaugural Test in 1982, and went on to dominate the country’s cricket for nearly 20 years.
He was the country’s most successful captain in their early years, getting the best out of his players and standing by them even in the face of intense criticism.
As Alec Stewart and others will testify, his abrasive personality did not win him many friends, but he always put his team first.
Ranatunga also earns his place in this team as a batsman of merit who was fluent on both sides of the wicket and able to keep the scoreboard ticking over seemingly at will.
7. Hashan Tillakaratne
83 Tests; 4,545 runs; 42.87 average; 204* highest score
Sri Lanka’s emergence as a force in international cricket owed much to Hashan Tillakaratne, a skilled batsman who could occupy the crease for very long periods.
Having given up keeping wicket, Tillakaratne was prolific and capable of making tremendous scores against difficult bowling attacks.
He is unfortunate to find himself at No. 7, as he is capable of batting much higher but finds himself moved down out of necessity.
8. Chaminda Vaas
111 Tests; 355 wickets; 29.58 average 7-71 BBI
Into the bowling attack we go, with left-arm seamer Chaminda Vaas at No. 8 and certain to have a share of the new ball.
The best seam bowler in Sri Lankan history, Vaas was capable of producing swing and seam movement virtually everywhere, even on the flat pitches in the subcontinent.
With his ability to produce reverse-swing with the old ball too, Vaas presented a terrifying proposition to batsmen everywhere and richly deserves his place in this team.
9. Rumesh Ratnayake
Wisden Cricket Monthly
23 Tests; 73 wickets; 35.10 average; 6-66 BBI
He may have only played 23 Tests, but Rumesh Ratnayake was one of Sri Lanka’s better bowlers during its initial period in Test cricket.
Producing superb pace and bounce, Ratnayake always performed consistently well; especially on those occasions he was able to swing the ball as well.
Injuries may have proved his undoing, but for his contributions to Sri Lanka’s early days in Tests, he earns a spot on this team.
10. Ashantha De Mel
17 Tests; 59 wickets; 36.94 average; 6-109 BBI
Sri Lanka’s best seam bowler after it was awarded Test status, Ashantha de Mel was crucial in its early steps in Test cricket.
With the ability to produce genuine pace with outswing on a regular basis, de Mel was one of Sri Lanka’s first great fast bowlers and ushered in a new era for the national team.
His was another career cut short by injury, but for his pace and his role as Sri Lanka’s leading bowler, de Mel makes this team.
11. Muttiah Muralitharan
133 Tests; 800 wickets; 22.72 average; 9-51 BBI
Not only does Muttiah Muralitharan make this best Sri Lanka team, he would arguably be recognised as one of the best players of all time from any country.
The off-spinner still holds the record for the most wickets in Test matches, a record that is highly unlikely ever to be broken given the reduction of the number of Tests played by each country.
There may have been some questions about his action, but Murali could turn the ball on virtually any surface and had a bowling average of less than 30 everywhere except India and Australia.
He was Sri Lanka’s first cricketing superstar for his exploits with the ball and so richly deserves his place in this best XI.