When the word “consistency” gets thrown around in the cricketing circle, the first thing that comes to one’s mind is 50+ batting averages or sub-30 bowling averages, but is that enough?
With the recent performance of the Sri Lankan team, the word “consistency” can be heard more often, be it from the captain, be it from the fans or from commentators. Yes consistency is a quality of a champion side, but there is more to it than individual batsmen having 50+ batting averages, or individual bowlers having sub-30 bowling averages. If we look at the champion sides in the past most we will see the above mention stats individual wise, but there was also something else. Now with the modern hectic schedule, for batsmen, it will be tough task to maintain those high numbers (except maybe they keep playing on “Indian highways”), and same goes for bowlers. Having said that, maintaining those impressive stats is only one form of consistency.
If we look at the past champion sides, especially Steve Waugh’s Australians, they brought a new attitude to the field. The famous Australian “never say die” attitude kept everyone on their toes, even when they are so close to winning. Now they did have pretty impressive stats, individual wise, but how many times did we see a “less recognized” Brad Hogg, or James Hopes drag their team over the line? Or some new debutant stun the opposition. A great example is Adam Gilchrist in 2007 World Cup, he was out of touch until the final, but rest of the team around him performed and made sure they got to the final(and we all know what happened in the final) Yes they were “consistent as a team”!! That is the other form of consistency. Every single time someone from the playing eleven stood up and took the responsibility. Some of them did have great stats, but the team did not depend on them alone. That was the origin of their “never say die” attitude. The Sri Lankan team of ‘96 had the same quality, if we look at their stats, they were not great, or I cannot recall one particular individual being highly consistent, but they were consistent as a team. Be it Dharmasena, be it Kaluwitharane, or Chandana, there was “always” someone other than more highly ranked players to put their hand up and perform when the chips were down. That was one reason, we hardly saw “dramatic collapses”, like we see often in present.
After the Mathews heroics of the 5th ODI against Pakistan, the fans will always look to him to put in similar performances day in day out, but that is not going to happen. Another day someone else will have to step up and take up the challenge. Now some critics pointed out our top order is not settled and needs to be more “consistent”, but if we look at the recent matches, one cannot argue they haven’t contributed. Sanga and Dilshan both scored centuries in Australia, and so did in recently concluded one against Pakistan(Sanga got 92), they didn’t do the same in every single match, and yet SL as a team was successful. Why? Because they were “consistent as a team”. The point is we don’t need ever consistent (I am not saying it’s a bad thing) individuals, if we are consistent as a team, day in and day out different individuals should claim their stake in glory. If we have the same hero in every single winning game, then the team depends too much on a single individual. A champion team should have eleven champions not six or seven champions with five or four regulars. The real consistency depends on the ability of any given individual to perform on any given day. It does not have to be same bunch of guys (i.e. top order) that has to perform every game. The consistency must be achieved as a team. That way even if the single individuals are not consistent, there will always be someone to take the team over the line. The signs are there for the current Sri Lankan team, with the emergence of Mathews, Perera, Thirimanne, Kulasekara and Jeewan Mendis.