Some would say it’s deja vu, others bad luck, but once again we stand as finalists and not winners in the aftermath of yet another world cup. After steamrolling through the competition it seems so frustrating to fall at the final hurdle time and time again when we know we have the ability to win. But there are some vert clear reasons for this, as well as some positives.
What went wrong:
1. The batting order is completely wrong.
Sanga, Mahela and Dilshan are world class batsmen, who, individually, can take apart any score; and our middle has, in my opinion, been the strongest line up for a long time. However when we stack our best 3 right at the top, they will tend to score the bulk of the runs, leading to large victory margins; but when it comes to tougher matches, if our top 3 fail to fire then the rest of the order have not had enough confidence gaining experience to keep up the pace and pull through for the win. Therefore Sanga, Mahela and Dilshan need to be staggered much more effectively. My ideal order would be:
2. L Thirrimanna / D Munaweera
3. K Sangakkara
4. J Mendis (can float)
5. M Jayawardena
6. A Matthews
7. T Perera (can float)
8. N Kulasekara (can float)
9. L Malinga
10. A Mendis
11. A Dhanajaya
With this order, while it may not be the strongest to start with, it will grow in confidence and ability to become a formidable unit.
2. The criminal underuse of Dinesh Chandimal
Chandimal has performed at the top levels of cricket, and he did seem to hit some form towards the end of the SLPL, but for unkown reasons he was not selected for the starting XI for any of the matches. In my opinion he should have been in the line up instead of Thirrimanna as he has a style more akin to a pinch hitter compared to Thirrimanna who is an opener, and he is better at clearing the fence and hitting the big shots. At his age we cannot afford to make a Kapugedara out of him, he is far too valuable.
3. The misplacement of Lahiru Thirrimanna
For a batsman who has opened the innings for Sri Lanka in various formats, the position given to Thirrimanna was baffling. He bats like an opnener, so putting him down the order was a mistake; that postion would be better suited to someone like Chandimal. He should bat instead at the top of the order, coupled with a more experienced batsman, so as to develop his confidence and ability.
4. The misuse of Thisara Perera
He hardly bowled thoughout the tournament, not even touching the ball during the final, and he bats so late down the order that the window of opportunity he gets is not large enough to make a decent impact on the game. Judging by the way he was used, his spot could have been better filled by an extra batsman. He is able to score runs, getting a solid 72 in the SLPL as well as a good knock in the 2011 world cup final. Perfect as a pinch hitter, he should have been brought earlier up the order as a floater, depending on the run rate. Instead he came in much too late to make an impact. He also should have been given the ball when it became clear that the West Indians had worked out Malinga; it was clear that they had planned for Malinga, but not neccessarily for Perera.
Nevertherless, there are some positives to take away from the world T20:
1. Akila Dhanajaya
Dhanajaya has had the year of his life, bursting on to the cricket scene from out of the blue, impressing in the SLPL then proving his worth against the best at the international stage. He is definitely one to watch for the future, and provided he is managed well and not over-exposed, with the wealth of experience and knowledge that surrounds him, he should have a bright and properous career ahead.
2. Nuwan Kulasekara
Once again Kulasekara showed us why he is one of our most underrated yet vital players. He has been consistently amazing with the ball and has performed incredibly with the bat when called upon. I believe that he was underused in the bowling department, and should be floated in the order due to his hitting ability. We all remember how he rescued Sri Lanka when our top order collapsed. I also believe that his temperament and cool mindset makes him a canditate for vice-captaincy or even captaincy if Matthews is lacking in maturity.
3. Munaweera and Mendis
Both may have not been amazing or particularly outstanding, but they have bolstered Sri Lanka’s ranks and show great promise and potential. They will have time to gain maturity and confidence before the next tournaments in 2014 and 2015.
Overall, Sri Lanka is strong enough; we can win, and we deserve to, but fundamental structural errors are holding us back from greatness. I don’t believe that anyone in the team was bought out, that would only occur in the selection process, but we need to grow as a team towards 2015, so that when Mahela, Sanga and Dilshan retire we are not left in a void of inability and inexperience.