How Sri Lanka lost their Asia Cup swagger

By Trevor Chesterfield in Dambulla | June 24, 2010

On Tuesday night, it was carnival time. They were singing and dancing in the Rangiri Stadium isles. India were being crushed and given a good hiding.

Come Asia Cup final night, chasing down a target of 269 to retain the trophy was proving to be a lot more difficult for Sri Lanka’s batsmen. The top-order was swept away by the end of the first 16 overs with some explosive and clever bowling as India stared down their island rivals.

By the end of the evening, they were 81 runs short and frankly, never looked as though they were going to score the 269 needed to win a game they had all but swaggered into, a tad overconfident, although no one would admit it before the game. Certainly not the coaching staff; to them, Sri Lanka had the wherewithal and smoking guns to hammer India into submission to claim the third successive title.

In fact India batted far better than had been expected, and sitting with the former highly stylish South African batsman, Daryll Cullinan, who was doing commentary stints, and chatting about the series, it was agreed, India were a more composed side than Sri Lanka. Lessons from the Tuesday defeat weighed on the minds of Dhoni and the coach, Gary Kirsten. A total of 187 by Sri Lanka, dismissed in the 45th over was good payback.

PhotoIt was a lot tougher too with a green tinged pitch, some life for the bowlers and Ashish Nehra, labouring this tournament with form and confidence suddenly becoming the magician pulling a series of thrilling tricks from his fast-medium seam repertoire and gave India a chance to hope.

Hope that is India were able to think in terms of ending a 15-year long drought with a victory looming in the 2010 Asia Cup final. As Sri Lanka Cricket officials, miffed over charges that the lighting at the stadium in the heart of the cultural centre of the island were not up to international standard, Nehra laid waste to the top and middle order in a five over spell as first change, he grabbed the wickets of Kumar Sangakkara, Mahela Jayawardene and Angelo Mathews to have the hosts struggling.

The loss of five top-order wickets, with Tillakaratne Dilshan falling for a duck second ball of the innings with a premeditated pull that went seriously wrong, top-edging a catch. It silenced the crowd expecting an explosive start. Disaster for Sri Lanka but an impressive start for India, and Zaheer Khan and Praveen Kumar were hunting for wickets.

Yet there was doubt whether India’s innings of 268 for six would be enough runs after Sri Lanka’s practice run on Tuesday night.

Dinesh Karthik could almost take a bow. His innings of 66 was a mixed effort. There were stylish strokes mixed with cagey defence. After the early departure of Gautam Gambhir and the Virat Kohli effort to go fishing outside the off stump had India in early strife, it needed some sensible, intelligent batting to build the semblance of a match-winning total.

At least Karthik, with the skipper MS Dhoni guiding the innings from the middle, was attempting to rotate the strike at a time the momentum was in India’s favour. The Dhoni decision to bat at four, as he did against Pakistan, was invaluable as it went someway to replaying the innings total platform after Karthik’s untimely departure.

Karthik, having made 66, took on the part-time leg-spinner Thilan Kandamby, the result was an attempted slog-sweep that ended up with the batsman failing to judge the distance, always a risk if you do not know the ground.

If Karthik’s departure with the total at 146 for three left India looking vulnerable what happened after that was a story of solid scores, but no one really kicking on to make a more impressive contribution. It was felt a 300 total would put Sri Lanka under pressure, which frankly failed to materialise

Photo.“Most of us had the kind of starts that we needed and we should have converted those starts into big innings,” Dhoni admitted. “It's important to learn (from your mistakes) even if you are winning games.”

As for Sri Lanka’s innings, there was always the feeling the selectors didn’t make the right choice in going for Thilina Kandamby ahead of Thilan Samaraweera. It was where experience in the middle-order was needed. Okay, so they wanted to give Kandamby’s leg-spin a twirl. Wreckless shots by the Indians earned two fortunate wickets, his first at this level, fulfilling the pre-tournament plan to trial his leg-spin.

Or as Sangakkara agreed after the game when explaining his thoughts, "We were expecting the ball to move anyway in Dambulla. Unfortunately we could not deal with the swing that was there," Sangakkara said.

"Technically I think we could have dealt with it a lot better; mentally we could have dealt with it a lot better." A lot to ponder there.

At least the selectors were able to see how the portly Kandamby and the so-called Sri Lankan ‘Jonty Rhodes’ were able to cope with pressure. And what pressure. With the fifth wicket falling with the total at 51 in the 16th over when Nehra snared Sangakkara, with a pull shot the Sri Lanka captain would have wished he had not played, other than a miracle, there was no way back for Sri Lanka.

Whatever local bias says, batsmen such Kandamby and Chamara Kapugedara, despite the views of the national selectors, are not equipped enough to withstand pressure at this level. A partnership scraped together explained the level of expertise.

As for the Kapugedara being as good a Rhodes, it was suggested by a local columnist. Only he and his cronies missed the point. Rhodes scored centuries at Test and ODI levels; Kapugedara has yet to reach a three-figure total. His undefeated innings of 55 lifted his ODI average to 23.20 and it was his fifth half-century in 77 games.

© Trevor Chesterfield/Island Cricket.
(For reasons of copyright, permission is required from the author and/or webmaster/editor of islandcricket.lk for publication).

Comments

Ahin Das's picture

Where did Sangakkara get his accent from. Its like a Sri Lankan speaking English while chewing on a malu paang. No one in Trinity, the Law College or Sri Lankan English educated, speaks that way. Ironically, sometimes he has it and sometimes he doesn't. Does a cricketing icon like Sangakkara need an accent to prove a point.

He should keep all this big talk aside, keep the talking as simple as Dhoni and start winning important matches for Sri Lanka with his batting and captaincy. Same goes to Jayawardena, though his talking is simple, we can only see the best of him when not under pressure. Under pressure, both these world class batsmen crumble like they are paid to give up. No contributions from the openers, no contributions from the bowlers (they can't always for god sake) when did these two do it for us last in a limited overs big match, I can't remember. Take the pressure of them, give them favorable conditions and time to settle, they go on to establish world records.

However, they are still good enough to play the world cup but after that, they should strongly consider letting the fearless lot of youngsters to take their places in the limited overs formats.

Sujan's picture
Member since:
27 December 2008
Last activity:
1 day 4 hours

When they play, you - the so called fans call them God. And it takes just one loss to bash'em. This is ridiculous. So do you expect SLC to field a 'A' or U-19 team?

Sach's picture
Member since:
25 December 2008
Last activity:
1 year 16 weeks

Sujan, just to make things clear, not many Sri Lankans call our players 'Gods'. Btw, why do I not see you on SLC anymore?

Sujan's picture
Member since:
27 December 2008
Last activity:
1 day 4 hours

I didn't exactly mean as Gods as it happens here in my country, but then I hope you got my point.

I do visit SLC everyday, read all the story/comments. Your article on Bangladesh Cricket was too good. well written!

Paul's picture

The match was fixed. I predicted a detailed description of what would happen in 20th Sun Day Leader E version. All my predictions were dead right. Please check it. Some higher up in Cricket Admin is already under investigation for match fixing. I don't think it is the players . But they are ordered. Please try to recall what happened in every match with India where it mattered. You will see that the pattern is the same. I talked to a top test player cum Manager and he admitted this.
Sad part of this is our poor public in millions who stop all their work waste money to see a fixed match.

Tharindu0525's picture
Member since:
12 February 2010
Last activity:
12 weeks 2 days

Lets not forget the innings Mahela played in the semi final in the world cup against new zealand or the innings he played against the south africans in 2005 chasing a target of 250 when the team was 120 for 5 or something///and the innings he played against india in the fianal of the bangladesh tri series..all these were under pressure..

Sanga's t20 knock against the aussies in england..the test innings..of 194 which if wasn't for the erroneous decision we would have won or gone close to winning...

and if you talk about the youngsters there is nothing to talk about..they have been bundled out for 73,,after winning the toss and electing to bat first mind you

Chalana's picture

Good article

As for Kapu, he came at over no 16 and scored 55. Less than 2 runs per over in a limited over game. He will face four balls and in the fourth ball score one run & gives the turn to a bowler like Murali to bat. 55 makes him a hero and that heroic act is enough for his cronies to fill pages in several months to come.

55 runs in 34 overs which is one of the five half centuries he scored in 77 games; is a good point for Aravinda to keep him, to train and to make a Marvan out of him.

Here, good alrounders like Jeevantha Kulatunga, labled by SLC as a specialist in limited over cricket(They wrote an article with this title, in their website), who is the only player to score centuries in T20, 50 Over and 4 day provincial tournament 2010, also perfoming well with the ball, is spending time without any game (be it a t20 or any other) watching TV.

SMSD's picture
Member since:
20 December 2008
Last activity:
4 years 14 weeks

Can you predict me the lottery numbers for tonight's draw please? It's a roll over.

I suppose no argument is complete without the input from the conspiracy theorists. lol.

SMSD's picture
Member since:
20 December 2008
Last activity:
4 years 14 weeks

@Tharindu

You're right on the point of Mahela and Sanga.

Some of our seniors have been in pressurised situations in the past and managed to survive.

There are such uncertainties surrounding the team/team selections at the moment, SLC must take blame equally for this failure.

However, I would like to mention in favour of the youngsters (I assume you are talking about Sri Lanka A team currently playing in Australia).

They were all out for 78 not 73 by the way. Yeah I know, only 5 run difference but when the total is so low every run counts. lol.

In the same Townsville ground during the warm-up match, Aussies nearly got bundled out for 101 in the first innings. O.K. they didn't but they have the home advantage and familiarity with the pitch, conditions etc.

Maybe these aren't valid excuses, but when you think about how many times our seniors have struggled in Australia over the years, perhaps we shouldn't be too hasty to write off our A team who are touring Aus for the first time.

As it stands, at stumps on day 2, we are 32 for no loss. So it ain't over yet.

garawi's picture

When Sanath was playing rest of the team depended so much on him if he failed others were totally unfocussed and they too failed. Now Dilshan has taken Sanath's place. That's all. The rest of the team is not consistent and cannot take up a challenge.

Ahin Das's picture

Gents as fans I think all of us feel for Sri Lankan cricket one way or the other. To clarify my stand; I said 'like paid to' but i didn't mean match fixing by that Paul. Said Youngsters 'after' the world cup, A team, under 19s will be more experienced by then and yes why not. Tharindu ! so how often should these two win matches on their own; once in five years, two years or once a year. You seem to remind us only about three four ODI/T20 innings in five years, good enough ?? all I am saying it should more often, like Sana in his prime, Ara, Arjuna ~ they are greats cause they shined when it mattered most and they spoke less and focused on cricket more.

Anonymous's picture

Who is this top player cum manager has he got a name or AKA Mr. Anonymous.

SMSD's picture
Member since:
20 December 2008
Last activity:
4 years 14 weeks

Agreed, we had very hardy and formidable players like Sanath in his prime, Aravinda, Arujuna, Kaluwitharana.

But to say "they spoke less and focused on Cricket more" would be inaccurate. Especially in the case of Arjuna Ranathunga. lol.

They all had their fair share of dramas, fall outs, scandals. SLC board was never whiter than white. The difference is, as well as SLC administration, players were not so much in the limelight as players today are.

Today's players are more in the media on a daily basis. all aspect of their lives are under scrutiny by general public. In the era of the internet, they are fair game for wide spread criticism at a drop of a hat.

Now they are part national Cricketers, part commodities. So everybody gets to have a go at them. Rightly or wrongly, we expect so much from them.

Mahela & Sangakara names regularly appeared on the top section of ICC lists until last year, together with Vaas, Murali etc.

They should try, but they cannot win every tournament, swagger or no swagger. It's great if they try to win 50 over WC 2011. It's a bit of entertainment, but I'll be happy when we get back into top slots of ICC Test chart.

Tharindu0525's picture
Member since:
12 February 2010
Last activity:
12 weeks 2 days

@ Achin das : Isn't better to get the best out of the best we have got?? rather trying new players as you suggest?? i think jayawardene and sangakkara are the best we've got in the middle order right now,,and i know that even though you might not there will be miullions who agree with me.. and i think it's best for Sl cricket to make the best use out of them... maybe shuffling the batting order and get the best out of them..rather than replacing them with younsters who are just coming of age in australia..

Ranjan Rodrigo's picture

Trevor is right when ne says Kadamby and Kapu did not deserve selection.Kapu just cud not pierce the field for many many overs.Picture another country bat at that juncture.They wud have hit at least a couple of sixes against loose balls. Kapu was playing for his place and even when Murali was batting, did not try to farm bowling or be aggressive.
Also allegations of Match fixing are serious.
Someone shud collect comments and pass them to the people that matter.
Ranjan

Anonymous's picture

Aravinda De Silva, Gulf News, 01 July 2010 ;

Gulf News: Why is it that Sri Lanka is unable to win big tournaments despite putting up a creditable performance in almost all top tournaments?

Aravinda: It has been a stigma since the 1996 World Cup. We have been getting into semifinal and finals but unable to perform as we did in the early matches of that tournament.

It is mainly because the experienced players are not stepping forward during the crucial matches. We were in the same situation in 1996 till the quarterfinals.

The young guys freeze a bit in big matches and that is the time when seniors should come forward and take over. As chairman of selection committee, I am now trying to get this message across to my players, especially to be more relaxed and give their best.

Gulf News: So you mean players need to be mentally stronger to cope with the pressure?

Aravinda: Yes, cricket is 90 per cent played in the brain nowadays. Hard work need to be backed by mental strength too.

Anonymous's picture

Marvan Atapattu, Sunday Leader, June 27;

" The most important aspect of our team should be strength of our batting in the middle of the innings. To my mind, this is the most important area that need to be addressed and addressed now. Right now it revolves around Sanga and Mahela. Batsmen five and six should be decided upon soon or even think of Lahiru Thirimanne and Dinesh Chandimal to firm up. Younger players like Kandamby and Kapugedera have to play around Sanga and Mahela. Perhaps Mahela can drop down to number five, allowing Kapu or Kandamby to bat four, thereby strengthening the lower middle. This will obviate the weakness we see when a few wickets fall quickly including that of Mahela. "

Post new comment

Note
All anonymous comments are moderated.
  • Avoid abusive remarks and personal attacks.
  • Avoid posting unrelated links.
  • Avoid vulgar or obscene language.
Already a member? Log-in now. Not a member? Sign up for a new account.
The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly.
CAPTCHA
Enter each letter you see in the box below. It helps us prevent automated submissions from spammers.