Manchester – Sri Lanka captain Upul Tharanga backed his side
to uphold the island’s proud World Cup record after their automatic
qualification for the 2019 edition in Britain was assured by West Indies’
seven-wicket loss to England on Tuesday.
With September 30 set as the cut-off date for automatic
qualification for the International Cricket Council’s showpiece 50-over
tournament, two-time champions West Indies (78 points) now cannot move ahead of
Sri Lanka (86 points) in the ODI team rankings regardless of other results in
the remainder of their five-match series in England.
As a result 1996 World Cup winners Sri Lanka – also the
losing finalists in 2007 and 2011 – have become the eighth and last team to
qualify directly, joining Australia, Bangladesh, England, India, New Zealand,
Pakistan and South Africa.
The confirmation that Sri Lanka had gained direct entry to
the next World Cup came after their recent hammering at home to India in all
three formats, the visitors winning Test and one-day series 3-0 and 5-0
respectively before triumphing by seven wickets in a lone Twenty20
international earlier this month.
“It’s no secret that we have been going through a tough
time,” said relieved Sri Lanka ODI skipper Tharanga in an ICC statement
released shortly after England’s win in a day/night clash in Manchester.
“But I want to say a big, big thank you to our fans
who’ve kept faith with us when things looked bleak.”
He added: “ICC events have always brought out the magic
in Sri Lanka cricket, and I look forward to proving that once again.
“We have a clear plan toward the World Cup, and we will
work hard at achieving each step.
“I know you will see Sri Lanka’s special brand of
cricket out there once again soon.”
Only a 5-0 series win or 4-0 with a tie or no-result against
England would have seen West Indies pip Sri Lanka before the cut-off point.
But having failed to qualify for the elite Champions Trophy
tournament in Britain earlier this year, West Indies suffered a 13th defeat in
their last 14 completed ODIs against England in the series opener at Old
Trafford on Tuesday.
“We knew it was always going to be a tough ask,”
said West Indies batting coach Toby Radford after a convincing loss.
“But we are very positive as a group and we are trying
to develop in all our formats of cricket, so every game that comes now we will
be positive and if that means qualifiers next year, it’s qualifiers next year
and we’ll build our way back up.”
West Indies, who won the first two World Cups – both staged
in England – in 1975 and 1979, could still take part in the main 10-team 2019
tournament if they are one of the top two sides in next year’s qualifying
That event, also featuring 10 teams, will see West Indies
joined by the bottom three sides in the ODI rankings – Afghanistan, Zimbabwe
and Ireland – as well as the top four sides from the ICC World Cricket League
and the top two from Division Two of the WCL.
The next World Cup, the fifth to be staged in Britain, takes
place from May 30-July 15 2019.