Mahela, the right choice?
Its the start of another gruelling series with India and as is the norm with the Sri lankan team these days they lost the first match. If we look into all the oneday tournaments that Sri Lanka played in the last 6-8 months a pattern imerges where we have lost the first game and have had an ordinary start to the tournament. The opponents have had an advantage even on Sri lankan surfaces where they have been able to win the first game. When Dilshan was at the helm the team tried to fight back in the remaining games but were either unlucky as in South Africa or they just could not get over the line as in England where they lost the final game by a narrow margin to concede the series 3-2. When Mahela took over the captaincy there was some hope that he would be able to arrest the slide. It didn't happen instantaneously as we lost the first two games in Australia under his captaincy. Slowly but surely he has shaped the side into a formidable outfit who can challenge any opposition on any given surface.
Sri lanka still hasn't shed the bad habit of losing the first game in the series losing both to India and Pakistan at home but what is apparent is that they have found a leader who has the ability to inspire the team into making a comeback. This is a hallmark of a good leader and even though a prediction cannot be made about the current series the way Sri Lanka came back to level the series is enough evidence to suggest that they are capable of making a comeback and win the series. Infact this was even evident when Mahela captained the side from 2006-2009. In his first series as captain of the Test team with a young team touring England he was able to inspire them to a drawn series. This included the heroic escape at lords where Mahela batted gallantly to save the Test match gainst all odds. Then the team lost at Edgebaston but made a comeback in Trent Bridge to square the series. Then what followed was a 5-0 whitewash in the ODI's against England a first of its kind suffered by England at home. Sri Lanka were able to always compete well when Mahela was at the helm drawing series' vs New Zealand, West Indies away and losing only in Australia and a solitary series vs Pakistan in at home in that period. His most significant achievement during his earlier captaincy stint was to lead the team into the cricket world cup finals in 2007. Although Sri Lanka lost the final to Australia thanks to a freak innings by Adam Gilchrist the way they fought during that tournament eventually knocking India out of in the group stages was memorable. Luck deserted him during the latter stages of his captaincy losing the toss frequently at RPS and Dambulla where toss was pivotal those days to lose a few series against India and England. The cricket administrators at that time did not see the bigger picture and he was pressurized into giving up the captaincy. Sri Lanka hence lost its most tactically astute captain since Arjuna to short sightedness by the selectors.
What Sri Lankan team now needs is consistency in all areas. This is what has lacked in the team and that is something we have to bear with when there are so many young players in the team. The leader of the team becomes extra important when so many new players are establishing themselves in the team. Mahela in his short tenure has proved that he has the ability to get the best out of these promising youngsters. They have a role model who gives them confidence that they could perform. The emergence of Thisara & Chandimal coincided with him taking the captaincy. Destiny has given Mahela another chance to captain his country. He may have never imagined that he would be captaining again. It has happened and its upto him to make the most out of this oppurtunity. I personally believe that if he was the captain at the World Cup in 2011 we could have won. The Sri Lankan team have been desperately unlucky in big tournament finals losing 3 out of 3 in the past 5 years. In Mahela we have a leader who can lead the team to glory in 2015 and in Thisara & Angelo we have two players who has that midas touch to win crunch situations. Mahela would no doubt encounter roadblocks along the way but its important that the selectors persist with him since there isn't a better man manager in the current team. Maybe its destiny that has brought the captaincy back to him to get his hands on that elusive ICC trophy that was grasped away by Gilchrist in 2007. This Sri Lankan team has it in them what is required to win in Australia and most importantly the T20 WC in Sri Lanka. Let's wish our team luck and be patient when they do not win as winning and losing is part of the game. Let's hope that Mahela can inspire them to make history.