The thing about experience is that it can neither be bought nor be replaced immediately. Nobody understands this better than the Sri Lankan cricket team. Two of their finest batsmen and legends of the game, Kumar Sangakkara and Mahela Jayawardene carried the burden of over 20 million Sri Lankan hopes besides team’s batting for more than a decade-and-a-half. The team qualified for the semi-final of two and final of four World Cups out of the total nine played during the period (both 50-over and T20I), winning the 2014 edition of the ICC World T20. It was their experience and class that guided the team all this while.

But ever since both quit international cricket last year, the fortunes of Sri Lankan team have been on the decline. While they have been scoring truck loads of runs in the Big Bash League (BBL) and Masters Champions League (MCL) after retiring, tearing apart the opposition bowlers at will, their team has been struggling to cope with their loss. Their replacements have found it difficult to fill in the big shoes and overall batting has failed miserably both at home as well as away. The ICC World T20 2016 will be the first major ICC event Sri Lanka will play without them, and in all probability, the team will continue to miss them.

This was evident during the recently concluded Asia Cup 2016, where the islanders failed to beat all the three Test playing nations. All they could manage was a solitary win over the lowly UAE, but not before getting a huge scare. Their batting looked completely out of place while their bowling lacked teeth in the absence of an injured Lasith Malinga, who was coming out of an injury and was playing at only about 70 percent of his fitness. Angelo Mathews, another senior who was coming back after missing the short trip to India, also disappointed with his performance. So did Chamara Kapugedara and Tillakaratne Dilshan, except for the final league game against Pakistan where the latter shone.

Sri Lanka badly needed the seniors to step-up after the legends retired, but that has not happened so far. At the same time, the newcomers have failed to impress. The likes of Dasun Shanaka, Milinda Siriwardena, Shehan Jayasuriya etc. have not lived up to the expectations, which has in return only added to the pressure on the seniors. It is true that the seniors need to step up, but alone they cannot turn the tide. If Sri Lanka have to go beyond the group stage this time around, the juniors too will have to come to the party alongside the seniors.

Going into the big tournament, there are a few positives for the Sri Lankans. The losses in last seven out of their 10 T20Is have resulted in an overhaul in the selection committee. Their stalwarts Aravinda de Silva and Romesh Kaluwitharana apart from Sangakkara have been appointed as the new selectors; a move which will only take Sri Lankan cricket upwards from here. Another positive is their record in the mega event and the fact that they are the defending champions, which they can be extremely proud of and draw inspiration from. Also the tournament is being played in the Indian subcontinent for the third consecutive time and on the last two occasions, they were runners-up and winners. In familiar conditions, the team will be hoping to thrive this time around too.

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Designed by Srushti Takale | Infographics by Chinmay Jawalekar

(A self-confessed cricket freak, Chinmay Jawalekar is a senior writer with CricLife and CricketCountry. When not writing or following cricket, he loves to read, eat and sleep. He can be followed here @CricfreakTweets)