Sri Lanka: Small Nation, Big Team

Sam HampsonContributor IOctober 7, 2009

JOHANNESBURG, SOUTH AFRICA - SEPTEMBER 27:  Nuwan Kulasekara (2nd R) of Sri Lanka is congratulated by team mates on the wicket of Jesse Ryder of New Zealand during the ICC Champions Trophy Group B match between New Zealand and Sri Lanka played at Wanderers Stadium on September 27, 2009 in Johannesburg, South Africa.  (Photo by Hamish Blair/Getty Images)

The dust has settled from the Champion's Trophy, and all in all, not much has changed.

We were reminded that 50 over cricket still has life left in it, and that a short tournament involving the top players is much more watchable than a bloated one with sub-par teams filling the spaces (take note ICC).

Australia showed everyone that, despite everything, they are still Australia in a similar way that South Africa showed everyone they are still South Africa.

For me Sri Lanka has stayed exactly the same too, a little bit confusing.

Are they of the best? Or are they one of the rest?

To look at their spin attack and their middle order, along with the Dilshan scoop and the Malinga sling, there's plenty about Sri Lanka that no one can match. The reality is that they haven’t been around world cricket for long, and are the minnows of Asian cricket in terms of population.

Another fact is that 13 years ago they won a trophy that South Africa and England are still yet to claim. Equally, Sri Lanka have so far failed to repeat that feat in a way that Ricky Ponting's men have made habit.

Only weeks ago, however, Sri Lanka were wrestling with South Africa for the favourites tag while Australia won a series 6-1 and didn’t seem to be rated by many. Too many experts or too few?

Those experts, no matter how many of them there were, must now surely be as puzzled as I about Sangakkara's team. The thing that really makes me uncomfortable is that they don’t give the impression of being a group who lack motivation or confidence. In previous series and tournaments the squad gave an impression of trust and self-believing in the image of their charismatic leader; quiet yet charming and fed by a steely resolve. Indeed, the 2007 World Cup showed their progress and potential, losing to a squash ball powered Adam Gilchrist in the final, so surely the South Africa syndrome can’t be blamed?

The likely explanation is that it was a bad week at the office, but that shared team character must shine through over the next few months to prevent any of the progress made to be wasted. Focus will quickly shift to the Champions League for some players, and Wayamba, the national champions.

In fact, a reassuring headline appeared today from Wayamba captain Jehan Mubarak stating "We can be the underdog that strikes".

It’s a relief to see that the little nation remembers its big '96 bite.