Continuing in our series of pieces on each country's ODI history, we go to Sri Lanka. From 1975 to 2012 (before the start of their current series against India), Sri Lanka played 667 matches and won 312 with a win loss ratio of 0.96. Their highest score is 443, lowest 43. They won the World Cup in 1996 and finished as runners-up in 2007 and 2011.
We present three lists - of players, batsmen and bowlers. The minimum qualification to be on these lists is to have played 75 matches. A match is considered in this system only when there is a result, and if the player has bowled or batted, as the case may be.
Here are the highest impact ODI players in Sri Lanka's history.
So, there are 8 specialist batsmen, 10 specialist bowlers and two all-rounders amidst the highest impact 20 players in Sri Lankan ODI cricket history; an indicator to Sri Lanka's image of being a well-balanced side in the international arena.
Unsurprisingly, it is Sanath Jayasuriya who tops the list and emerges as the highest impact player in Sri Lanka's ODI history. Jayasuriya's 12 SDs as a player confirms his billing of a game-changer in the Sri Lankan team and his tally is also the joint-highest (with Wasim Akram) by any player in the history of ODI cricket. Alongwith being one of the most explosive openers of all time, Jayasuriya was no mean achiever with the ball. He is one of the only two players (on this list) from Sri Lanka to have an all-round impact (both Batting and Bowling IMPACT above 1) and importantly has 2 SDs solely as a bowler.
Even though Kumar Sangakarra can be considered as one of the modern greats of the game, it is perhaps a bit surprising to see him at the no.2 spot. Besides his role as wicketkeeper and captain, Sangakkara is Sri Lanka's fourth-highest impact batsman in their ODI history and his tally of 6 SDs is also the joint-highest (with Adam Gilchrist) in the world for any wicket-keeper batsman. His high number of SDs also helps explaining his influence and importance to the Sri Lankan team in the recent past.
Aravinda de Silva is one of the most iconic figures in the Sri Lankan cricketing history and makes it high on this list because of his all-round abilities. His 7 SDs as a player is also the second-highest for a Sri Lankan and shows his valuable contribution to the team, more so because he started his career at a time (1984) when Sri Lanka were still minnows in the international circuit and de Silva played a major role in changing that status.
The popular notion of Arjuna Ranatunga being the best captain for Sri Lanka in their ODI history holds true as he emerges as the highest impact captain in Sri Lanka's ODI history. However, it is his influence as a player too which is quite remarkable. Even though he narrowly misses out on being classified as an all-rounder (Bowling IMPACT doesn't touch 1), his 6 SDs mark him out as one of the best Sri Lankan batsmen during his era.
Muttiah Muralitharan's and Chaminda Vaas' positions are due to their batting inadequacies, although when it comes to bowling, Muralitharan clearly leads as the highest impact Sri Lankan bowler in their ODI history and has 6 SDs to his credit whereas Vaas has 5. Their presence in the same bowling attack was the primary reason for Sri Lanka's bowling might in the mid-1990s.
The number of utility players present on this list also embodies the structure of the Sri Lankan cricket team that we have come to see for a very long time. So, even though the likes of Upul Chandana, Kumar Dharmasena and Asanka Gurusinha have a comparatively much lower Career IMPACT, it is important to note that they all were a part of the World Cup-winning team in 1996. In fact, out of the 20 players from this list 11 represented Sri Lanka during their 1996 World Cup campaign.
There are 6 players from the present playing generation who feature in this list which is indicative of both-their relative decline but also their promise.