On the 9th of May 2010, Sri Lanka lost to Australia by 81 runs. Coming into the game, Australia was in great form, something they have been working on for a very long time and it seems as if they have finally got it right. On the other hand, Sri Lankan team had some ups and downs on the way, a few problems regarding the right combinations, the injury of their star spinner Muralitharan, the bad form of TM Dilshan and Sangakkara and the inexperienced middle order.
The pluses were that Mehela Jayawardena was in the form of his life and Malinga and Mendis being among the wickets. This is a very calm and cool look at what really went wrong for Sri Lanka on that day.
I believe that one of the main wrong decisions was taken way before the game. The selectors’ decision to send in Thilan Thushara as the replacement for Murali. Thushara is a very good fast bowler and has been among wickets for the past year, but looking at the way things have been going lately, I think Dilhara Fernando should have got that ticket to the Caribbean. He had a very good IPL although his franchise didn’t have much faith in him until the end of the tournament. He was among wickets in domestic cricket and he has lots of experience and great memories on Caribbean wickets. He should have been on that plane.
Going into the game, Sri Lanka knew that the wicket had some pace and bounce. Perhaps the reason they decided to bring in Welagedara who went wicket less and gave away 40 runs in his 4 overs. Kulasekara on the other hand had a reasonably good game against West Indies picking up the prize wicket of Chris Gayle and only conceded 27 runs. Maybe he looks ordinary, but he has great cricketing mind which knows his inabilities and he does his job more often than not. That I believe was the next mistake.
Mathews gave a very good start to Sri Lanka and Suraj Randiv took that further taking the important wicket of the in-form batsman David Warner. The next mistake came when the score was 44/4, a ball straying down the leg side by Randiv brushed the pad of White and Sangakkara couldn’t collect the ball missing a stumping chance. Must say that it was a very tough one, but nevertheless a mistake. The next came when the score was on 61/4. White top edged while attempting a sweep and Mendis dropped which was a hard catch. Must add, Mendis’s fielding has been very ordinary for a long time and it doesn’t seem to progress at all. It seems as if the coach needs to give him some extra drills, perhaps military style!
The next problem was the field placing of Sangakkara at some stages of the game. When the opposition was 67/4 on the 11th over, not having a slip on a quick bouncy track didn’t seem like a wise choice. White edged one for 4 which would have been in the hands of the first slip. In that situation, we should have attacked more and it would have done the trick. Field placing for Malinga was not very good either which partly stopped him from bowling bouncers, mind you again, on a very lively pitch. Perhaps Kumar should be more attacking and have a chat with Malinga, after all he’s not a bowling machine which can be set only to throw in fast Yorkers. Even if he’s a Yorker robot sent back in time to crush toes, he might be a bit too predictable.
Speaking of the Yorker machine made of flesh, he started off very well with his first two overs only going for nine runs. In the next two overs, the machine seemed to malfunction. He didn’t find the block hole as he normally does. Malinga is not all about toe crushing Yorkers, this is the same guy who has duped world class batsmen with his fiery bouncers. He has a great slower ball. On this day, he was just too predictable and off the target toward the end of the game. One might complain about the field placing of Sangakkara, but that can’t be why he didn’t bowl any slower ones. He was not thinking like the champion bowler he is.
Perhaps you were wondering whether I forgot something, Ajantha Mendis! It seemed as if he was struggling to find the good length on this track, which can happen. His bowling was far too ordinary especially at the end of the innings. He still has the talent and it seems as if he needs to look at his own achievements and have a chat with the coach. And put some extra effort into his fielding, don’t tell me I’m off the point, but if you miss an important catch, that pressure will affect the confidence and as a result the bowling.
At the end of the Australian innings, all the Sri Lankan players knew that they blew a huge chance to restrict Aus to a score under 130 and that wouldn’t have been a great feeling. The momentum was surely on the Aussie side and it was surely going to be hard to pull back.
Jayasuriya seemed to be very unsettled, I mean let’s face it a 40year old against two fast men who can ball over 145kmph. Maybe he has been a great player, but this is the present and it was evident how keen he was to run to the non strikers end. Mahela’s shot showed the intent, but brings out the question whether he needed to take that risk against an in-form bowler at that stage. Same goes to Sangakkara. The plan should have been to see off Nannes and Tait and keeping wickets in hand to attack later on. Dilshan came back and made the same mistake but was lucky. He didn’t hesitate to throw in a few curse words to Tait straight after that, showed the spirit and the aggression, but the execution? Not really.
When Mathews fell when the score was 49/5, the outcome was almost evident. The lower middle order was just an out-of-form and underperforming Kapugedara and the inexperienced Chandimal. The game was long gone and it would have taken a miracle or two to come back from there against a very good Aussie attack with their tails up.
The next and probably the last mistake, not changing the game plan. It should have been as to bat out the 20overs and get as many runs as possible as the winning margin might play a part later on in the tournament with the net run rate. Must praise the positive thinking and trying hard to win, but again, the loss shouldn’t have been by 81 runs.
All in all Sri Lanka had the game in their hands and they let the Australians grab it back, I will tell you, the Aussies are very good at that. They have mastered that trick! That thought seemed to haunt the Lankans for the rest of the game.
Well the nightmare is over for the team. It is now our nightmare to see all the fans going nuts on cricket sites, criticism is so high and ugly that I have been avoiding cricket sites since this morning. Tough love I guess. I love our cricket team and respect what they do. Even though I have criticised their mistakes in this article, which is no crime, I believe that I did it the right way with the right spirit.
Humans play this game, so mistakes are inevitable. What must happen is that they correct themselves as much as possible and send the Indians home. The fans are also human, they might lose it a bit when their heroes lose, but it doesn’t mean that they don’t love their team. What must happen is that they be as calm as they can and make way for fair criticism and cheer like real lions for the next game.