Well… what a shambles that was! I am struggling to find a bright spark amongst all that rubble that transpired at Christchurch on Saturday.
Looking at the team that was named and comparing it to my "Best XI" there were some big differences –
Karunaratne playing instead of Chandimal
Lakmal instead of Senanayake
J Mendis instead of T Perera
Out of these 3 players, the one that really had me stumped and made no case for his selection going forward was Dimuth Karunaratne. He came in at number 5, with Sri Lanka needing 7+runs per over and already 3 wickets down and made a contribution of 14 off 21 balls with no boundaries.
I am not sure if it is just me, but does anyone else see what value (if any) he contributes at that position? Yes, he took a brilliant catch at long-on which he had me hanging on to false hope that Saturday was the day we see a "new" Karunaratne. But that changed ever so quickly with slow and lethargic efforts in the in-field. So much so, even Dilshan was letting him know what he thought. Considering how well Thirimanne batted at the top, you would think Karunaratne's days in the best XI are over. I think they would have to give Chandimal a run now in the next game against Afghanistan, unless there are some "external forces" at play which ensure Karunaratne does not lose his spot. But then again, who knows what goes through the selectors heads?!
Lakmal on the other hand was the surprise packet. So much so, that I believe he now deserves a spot in the starting XI going forward at least for the next 3 games. He was our only fast bowler who bowled to a plan and on a good line and length. The only blemish on his performance was his terrible death bowling. He repeatedly tried to land the yorker, only for it to end up a juicy full toss which kept getting hit to all parts of the ground. We have 2 fast bowling coaches (Vaas & Ratnayake) with the team at the moment, yet it bewilders me that our bowlers continue to attempt to bowl yorkers even though it is quite evident they are not getting it right. What happened to good old-fashioned bowling on a good length and line and bowling to your field? Regardless of when you are bowling, if you can't seem to land the yorker the best option would be to revert back to the basics. Albert Einstein once said, "Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, expecting different results". I will wait till the next game to judge if our fast bowling cartel and coaches are truly insane or not.
Jeevan Mendis – a case of rocks and diamonds! I did not have him in my "Best XI" for the one reason being, I did not believe he had the "X factor" to win a game single handedly. I believe I was right and wrong with this assumption. Right, because as we saw he is not the first batsman I would call upon to get a quick fire 30 or 40 and get us back in the game. In addition his fielding leaves much to be desired. I was wrong however thanks to his "diamonds" performance with the ball. He nearly turned the game back around for us but unfortunately was not allowed to bowl any more. Which leaves the question to be asked –
Why play Jeevan Mendis if you are only going to bowl him for 2 overs and bat him at 7?
I can't see any logical answer to that question. If the thought was Mendis has not been in form with the ball so they don't want to let him bowl too long – well why pick an out of form player?! If the thought was that they felt pace bowlers were better for the situation at the time – well why not pick Thisara Perera who would have given Mathews another option?
Basically Jeevan Mendis did what he could but was not used any further and ended up simply being a passenger in the XI. Considering how poorly some of our frontline bowlers were bowling, it would have helped to have another option to goto.
Angelo Mathews captaincy in this game left much to be desired. His bowling changes were some what reactive than proactive and he made changes with the bowlers in reaction to what the batsman were doing or which batsman was batting. He did not seem to be an active captain, ready to attack with his arsenal of bowlers. Instead he seemed very much a captain on the defence, ready to put up defences to New Zealand's arsenal of batsmen. He seemed to rely on his "frontline bowlers" of Malinga, Herath and Kulasekera a little too much. It seemed as though he was waiting for that magical spell from either of them. He was hesitant to bowl himself, Mendis or Dilshan. In fact, he even had another over of Herath left. To me that shows they didn't believe in spin working. Which is fine, it's a plan. Every team has to have a plan. But when your plan does not work, usually you would have a plan B (which for Sri Lanka, ever since they first played cricket it has always been spin).
Mathews on Saturday did not have this plan B. In fact it was plan A or nothing. Let me show you flawed this method of thinking was from Mathews:
Overs – 34 out of 40 possible overs
Runs – 252
Wickets – 3
RPO – 7.41
Overs – 16 (out of 30 possible overs)
Runs – 77
Wickets – 3
RPO – 4.81
The above shows that both type of bowlers took 3 wickets, but look at the difference in RPO – a huge 2.6 runs per over! Out of all his fast bowlers, the most economical was Mathews himself. But he only bowled 6 overs! An attacking captain would have bowled Mathews for a little longer on one end to stem the flow of runs & attacked with his spinners on the other end. All this during the middle overs and then brought Malinga in for 1 or 2 over spells when wickets fell.
This (in addition to the fielding) is the difference between restricting a team to around the 250-270 mark to conceding 300+!
Sri Lanka need a big wake up call if they hope to have a successful World Cup. Nearly everything from team selection to batting, bowling & fielding needs to improve! Heck even our fitness needs to lift! At the moment we are looking like a Saturday social club team that has used our "connections" and got a couple of first grade players to come play for us. Fortunately we have two easier opponents coming up – but be warned I say "easier" with so much caution! Because based on our current form, it wont be long before other teams start looking at us as the "easier" teams.