It is sad to see Sri Lankan cricket collapsing recently. The lions had their glory days in the ’90s till the 2011 World Cup. Their cricket began with the first ODI in 1975 and the first test in 1982. Since then, their cricket was on a rise, they rose from being the underdogs to lift the World Cup in 1996.
Sri Lanka has seen a fair amount of success in ICC tournaments, with an ODI World Cup, T20 world cup to their name, they also won the Champions trophy in 2002 along with India. However, they haven’t handled the transition well, when their legends and best players retired.
In over 40 years of international debut, Sri Lanka has produced world-class talents, record-breaking players like Muralitharan, a captain like Ranatunga, explosives such as Jayasuriya, and brilliance such as Sangakkara. The question that arises is that with success spanning over the years and players contributing in their eras, who are the top 10 Greatest players to wear the shirt.
Here is a list of the top 10 greatest Sri Lankan cricketers, who left a great mark on the cricket pitch.
10. Angelo Matthews
The 34-year-old is one of the underappreciated all-rounders in world cricket and Sri Lankan cricket. He was an instrumental figure in the 2014 T20 World Cup. He was also the part of 2011 World Cup squad.
He is the second-best rounder, behind Sanath Jayasuriya in terms of contribution. Mathews has scored over 13,000 International runs and has 191 wickets to his name in all formats. He also won the Sri Lankan cricketer of the year in 2015.
9. Marvan Atapattu
Marvan Atapattu was part of the 1996 World Cup-winning squad. He had a slow start to his career but contributed heavily with the bat once he settled in. Atapattu is the 6th highest run scorer for Sri Lanka in Test cricket with 5,504 runs. Coincidently, he is also the 6th highest run scorer in ODI cricket for the Lions.
Not to mention his contribution in the field, Atapattu effected 2nd highest run out in ODI’s from 1999-2005.
8. Arjuna Ranatunga
Ranatunga and Sri Lanka made their test debut together, he also became the first player to score a half-century in the test for the Lions. Ranatunga is widely regarded as the pioneer of Sri Lankan cricket from being an underdog to leading the side to the Cricket World Cup in 1996.
He makes it to the 8th on the list, primarily not for his stats, but for his upliftment of Lankan cricket, his fearless leadership, and standing up for his players such as for the legend Muralitharan against England in 1988.
Ranatunga scored over 12,000 runs in international cricket and retired in 2000.
7. Chaminda Vaas
Chaminda Vaas is the greatest fast bowler Sri Lanka has produced. He was a disciplined bowler with perfect line and length and late swings to trouble the batsmen.
Vaas is the 4th highest wicket-taker in ODI’s. He has taken 400 wickets in 322 matches and not to forget that famous first 3 ball hattrick against Bangladesh in the 2003 World Cup. He also holds the record for best bowling figures in ODI with 8/19 against Zimbabwe.
Vaas made it to ICC’s ODI team of the year twice in 2004 and 2007.
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6. Lasith Malinga
Widely regarded as the best-limited format bowler of all time. Malinga changed the whole dynamics of limited cricket. For the first time world saw an unorthodox fast bowler with an unusual action. It brought him great success with the ability to bowl Yorkers anytime he could. He was the master of the death overs.
Malinga was part of the 2014 T20 World Cup squad and can be regarded as one of the best T20 bowlers the world has witnessed.
Malinga has taken 4 consecutive wickets twice in international cricket. He is also the leading wicket-taker in IPL and has taken 546 International wickets.
5. Aravinda De Silva
The man behind Sri Lanka’s World Cup. As described by the great Sanath Jayasuriya’’ In present times De Silva would have scored 20,000 runs”. Silva was the most instrumental figure in the 1996 World Cup for Sri Lanka.
He was the leading run-scorer for Sri Lanka in the world cup with 448 runs. It was his 107 not out in the finals against Australia that made Sri Lanka world Champions.
Aravinda has scored over 15000 runs in international cricket and has over 100 wickets in ODI’s.
4. Mahela Jayawardene
Jayawardene is more to Sri Lankan cricket than what is reflected in stats. He took Sri Lanka to new heights with his captaincy. He builds a team that had Dilshan, Jayasuriya, Sangakkara, Malinga, and all the legends that feature in the list.
Jayawardene took Sri Lanka to 2007 final. He was a pivotal figure in the 2011 and 2014 World Cups. Jayawardene became the first player in Sri Lanka’s history to score 10,000 runs in Test. He is also the 3rd top scorer in ODI’s for Sri Lanka with 12,650 runs.
Overall, Jayawardene has scored more than 24,000 runs in international cricket. He is the second-highest run-scorer for Sri Lanka behind Kumar Sangakkara.
3. Kumar Sangakkara
Hands down the most talented cricketer Sri Lanka has produced is Kumar Sangakkara. Kumar is the second-highest run-scorer in ODI behind Sachin Tendulkar having played 9 years less than what Sachin has.
Sangakkara has scored over 28000 runs and is the leading run-scorer for Sri Lanka in both Tests and ODI’s. He has performed in each world cup and was a key figure in helping Sri Lanka reach the finals of the 2011 and 2015 World
One of the moments that need to be mentioned and cherished is when Sangakkara slammed 4 consecutive centuries in the 2015 World Cup. This feat speaks volumes about the magnitude of his quality as a batsman. No other batsman has replicated this feat in International cricket.
2. Muttiah Muralitharan
Murali is the greatest and most successful bowler to grace cricket. He is the leading international wicket-taker. He has precisely 1,334 wickets. He registered his 800th wicket on the final ball of his career.
He is the leading wicket-taker individually in Test as well as the ODI’s. Scrutinized for his unorthodox action, Murali had to face a lot of struggle and humiliation to prove himself clean of violating any legal bowling rules. Despite the struggles, he tangled batsmen as no other bowler could.
1. Sanath Jayasuriya
Sanath Jayasuriya makes it to the top of the list as he has to be the best cricketer Sri Lanka has produced. Not only in batting, but his overall skills are commendable.
Jayasuriya changed the dynamics of the first 15 overs by his aggressive batting, and he was feared by many world-class bowlers. As the rumours said, “Jayasuriya had spring in his bat”. He was a true grace to watch even by the opponent fans.
He was named the most valuable player of the 1996 Cricket World Cup. If we look at his stats then he is the second-highest run-scorer for Lanka in ODI’s and 3rd in Test cricket. Jayasuriya has scored over 20,000 runs in international cricket.
Not just that but he is the 11th highest wicket-taker in ODI’s with 323 wickets that is more than Shane Warne’s tally in ODI cricket. He has to be among the top 5 all-rounders in world cricket and undoubtedly the best all-rounder in ODI cricket. His stats are even better than Jacques Kallis in ODI.