It is high time to seal the Spots of Best Opening Pair to avoid repeating the same mistake in 2015 WC!

It is worth having a look at following articles appeared during & after 2015 WC Flop.!
Read the following :
By Kristopher Hinz | May 8, 2015 @ Island Cricket
Retired Sri Lankan stalwart Mahela Jayawardene has said the lack of a settled opening batting combination going into the World Cup hurt Sri Lanka's chances at the tournament.
" This was one of the areas of the batting that we should have tightened up and decided on much earlier,"  Jayawardene told Island Cricket in a recent interview.

" We should have found someone to partner with [Tillakaratne] Dilshan earlier on so that there was more consistency in the opening pairing, but this is a lesson we will hopefully learn from"
In the months leading up to the World Cup, Sri Lanka experimented with a number of batsmen to partner Dilshan at the top.
Jayawardene himself was used as a makeshift opener twice and wicketkeeper-batsman Niroshan Dickwella was also given a chance to open in a solitary ODI against India, with Kusal Perera being given more preference over others.
Dimuth Karunaratne, picked on the back of a Test century against New Zealand in December 2014, too was trialled as an ODI opener, while the experienced Upul Tharanga, who starred with the bat in the 2011 World Cup, was largely overlooked.
Upul Tharanga should have been in SL Fifteen says – Murali    in The Island, 8 January 2015
The Sri Lanka squad for the ICC Cricket World Cup 2015 contained two big surprises for me: the absence of opener Upul Tharanga and the inclusion of Jeevan Mendis as a spin-bowling all-rounder. Tharanga’s omission shocked me. True, he had not been picked against England or New Zealand, but he has a decent One-Day International record, averaging just under 34, and he has the precious gift of experience, with 176 matches under his belt.
He was a key member of our squads in both 2007 and 2011 when we reached the final on both occasions, and in that latter tournament he made 395 runs, including centuries against Zimbabwe and England, at an excellent strike-rate of almost 84 runs per hundred balls.
Tharanga was involved with the one-day side as recently as the hastily arranged tour of India in November and my strong preference would have been to have him to open alongside Tillakaratne Dilshan.!
This is all past history now… but should we repeat the same mistake again.?  2019 WC is less than 12 months away now. Therefore,  it is high time for the responsible authorities to shed their desire to include personal preferences at the last moment, based on things other than cricket. This kind of despicable selections resulted the disaster faced in 2015 WC.!
Permanently fix the spots of most productive pair of Openers, who maintained their overall standard during past 20 months, since Jan 2017 is the most logical thing to do at the moment,  without further delay.
It is not hard to finalize the pair of Openers, looking at pure performance merits maintained during most recent 20 months since Jan 2017. Waiting to find a flash in the pan kind of inning or two from a favorite to slotted in at the last moment is not going to work in the longer run, as proved in 2015 WC hope demolition.
SL's best pair of Openers for WC  should be based on Top Performance Averages, Strike Rates of Individuals,  number of Vital 1st Wicket stands of 50 or more runs and the number of innings those overall performances were maintained since Jan 2017. Those are the prime factors to be considered, apart from the accumulated runs during that period.
The Best Performed Individual Openers – Overall Av, SR maintained over higher number of innings (batting @ No: 1, 2 ) in past 20 months, since Jan 2017

Opener Upul Tharanga is above the rest in overall comparison of vital performance merits (40 Av, 86 SR)  maintained over highest number of innings & Niroshan Dickwella is closely behind him in performance merits as Openers during past 20 months.

The obvious question to be asked from responsible authorities is, in SL cricket history was there any other vastly experienced senior batsman like Tharanga, had been ever put under the sword constantly from series to series, even after materializing such an outstanding consistency & runs  well above the rest over 20 months period up to now?
SL had played 39 odis since Jan 2017 & there were 11 x 50 or more runs 1st Wicket stands recorded by openers:
– Opener Tharanga was involved in 8 of them (5 Vs SA , 1 Vs PK, 2 Vs BD)
– Opener Dickwella was involved in 9 of them (5 Vs SA, 1 Vs PK, with Tharanga) & (2 Vs Zmb, 1 Vs Ind with Danushka)
– Opener Danushka was invoved in 5 of them (2 Vs bottom ranked Zmb) & 2 Vs BD, 1 Vs Ind

Upul Tharanga is the Most Productive Batter in Top Order batting at No 1-4 ( 35 ings – 1252 runs @ 42 Av – 88 SR – with 2 x 100+ & 7 X 50+) in past 20 months:
The Opening pair Tharanga & Dickwella had produced 599 runs for the 1st Wicket  @ 40 Average, maintaining an EXCEPTIONAL RUN RATE 6.33 in their 15 Odi inings together as Openers during the period since Jan 2017 to date. Another point to be noted is all those 599 runs in their 15 innings together were scored against Top Class Quality Opponents as follows:
– 10 inngs Vs SA
– 4 innings Vs PK
– 1 Ing Vs India

On the Other hand Opener Danushka Gunathilake had never succeeded in maintaining a  RUN RATE beyond 5.5, even batting with both other Openers (with much higher individual SR compared to him). Although the Average was superficially high, thanks to the  2x 200+ stands put up Vs bottom ranked Zimbabwe, his insufficiently low upfront SR even caused to loose one of those 2 matches & that series as well Vs Vs Zmb.! The overall average was massively boosted by the 2 double-hundred stands scored Vs rock bottom opponent like Zmb . 5 of the 9 x 1st Wkt stands of Gunathilake with Dickwella were  Vs Zim. Those 5 innings Vs Zmb yielded a massive 466 runs @ 93 Av to boost the overall average of their stands together.

When you consider these facts & compare the performance merits maintained during past 20 months, it is obvious that Upul Tharanga should be the first-choice SL Opener, apart from being the most experienced and the ever highest credentialed SL opener in Global Stage competitions with 4 x Hundred-pluses & 7 Fifty- plus scores.
Tharanga's 's Global Stage ODI Competitions Record:
28 innings – 2 NO – 1,074 runs @ 41 Av – 76 SR – 4 x100+  and 7 x 50+ (playing in 21 WC innings + 7 ICC-Champions Trophy innings).

5th Ranked batter Upul Tharanga in WC 2011: 9 in -395 runs @ 56 Av – 84 SR – 2 x 100 – 1 x 50
The best Option available among Openers to Partner Upul Tharanga in the 2019 WC is clearly Dickwella, based on overall performance merit maintained over past 20 months. Therefore, if selections are to be done on long maintained performance merits, they should fix the spots of these two Openers, rather than looking every slightest opportunity/ lean patch to cut them both off, while pampering some constant failures (ie; K Mendis, Chandimal etc in limited over cricket) providing unending chances,  as seen recently.!!!

This is what Nirgunan Tiruchelvam, said  During disastrous NZ odi series leading to  2015 WC-
Courtesy of Sunday Leader, 15 February 2015,
The batting’s complete dependence on the experienced trio needs to been addressed. Dilshan, the most flamboyant of the trio, struggled with his timing. Sangakkara was surprising casual.

Dimuth Karunaratne, a Test match opener, is a sitting duck in the middle order. He can’t score freely nor can he rotate the strike.

Jealousy has long been the bane of the game. There could be non-cricketing reasons for Upul Tharanga’s omission, who has played 176 ODIs, including two World Cup finals. Tharanga is playing for NCC this weekend. His rightful place is at the top of Sri Lankan order.
But, as everyone predicted, the 2015 WC hopes of  over Twenty Million People  in SL were "Gone with the Wind"  thanks to the dear bunny loving SL selectors. All we could do is pray & hope, that crime will not repeat in 2019 WC as well.  !

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