SL Openers’ Eight-Hops to World Cup Exit… were they Mistakes or Misdeeds?

Someone could say it is easy to find faults afterwards to blame, for any genuine mistakes committed inadvertently. But, if an ultimate failure caused from a sequence of misdemeanours that were clearly visible throughout & had been repeatedly pointed out, that can never be justified or forgiven as a mistake! The way things were happening, this outcome was pretty much predictable & it was precisely predicted well-ahead (months ago) by deeply interested few people like me, who had been closely following the game for many decades. That prediction of non-professionals (in Cricket) is a clear-cut factor, to define the obvious line between “mistakes” & “misdeeds“ committed by so-called professionals, failing to do their duty properly to achieve WC success. If we could see the impending doom months ahead, why couldn't they ? After all, they have been appointed to do a job for the Nation. Their prime duty is to work for the progress & success of SL Cricket and certainly, not to act upon any personal whims & fancies, at the cost of SL Cricket.

Now let us look back to surface the sequence of misdemeanours leading to this WC Doom & Gloom (as predicted), initiated at the top OPENING spot in batting order & progressively destabilized the whole side until WC Disaster.

Ruling party legislator, Mr. Sanath Jayasuriya was appointed as chairman of Sri Lanka selection panel in Jan 28 th, 2013. The long-nail of doom-deal, initially hammered right there at the beginning by removing SL regular Number One Opening batsmen (Upul Tharanga just turned 28 years), who did an enormous service in previous seven years. At that time UT had played 152 in – 4941 runs @ 34.31 Av and in his most recent 2 years (2011/12) Tharanga had recorded FOUR x 100+ & TEN x 50+ & had accumulated 1,578 runs @ 36.69 Av from 47 ODI innings with 75.71 SR.

None could give any valid reason to justify the elimination of such a young experienced opener from the squad selected to ICC-CT-2013 played in England, just because he had a lean patch of 3 ODIs in Australia in Jan 2013 (he had scored 282 runs @ 31.33 Av in his previous 10 Odis including 3 x 50+ scores ( 60 Vs NZ / 59* & 51 Vs India). To date, Upul is the only SL player with 2 x 100+ in ICC-CT tournaments & he has the best SL batting Average 69.40 for a player in England. We all know what happened in that ICC-CT played in England with UT’s replacement.

So that was clearly the First Step of this doom & gloom journey in opening spot.

Then came the Triangular tournament in WI & Dilly got injured. UT got a last moment opportunity as the replacement for Dilly, because Kusal was already selected to the squad despite his 14 runs from 4 innings @ 3.5Av at ICC-CT. Tharanga opened with MJ & scored his career best score of unbeaten 174* Vs Ind in Kingston, to put-up a record breaking massive  200+ partnership to win that match Vs Ind & making a World Record for putting up highest number (Seven) of 200+ partnerships. He also topped 5,000 ODI runs as the 2nd fastest to do so in SL in 167 innings. Altogether, UT was given 7 Odis in that month. He managed 274 runs @ 39.14 Av with that unbeaten 100+ & 43 Vs SA during that month of July 2013. Despite all these achievements, he was AXED from every consecutive squad again for 10 months, until mid 2014.

That was the Second Step of doom & gloom journey in opening spot…

After keeping him away from playing any ODI for 10 months, a solitary ODI Vs Ire was given in May 2014, where he scored 24 runs, staying at the wicket until 50 runs up on the board, despite (Kusal : 0 runs in 4b & Thri: 8 runs in 24b) Two Wickets going down in initial overs, UT withstood the devastating new ball seam attack spells (prevailed in that Irish morning conditions), without exposing the middle order, until the conditions completely withered off (18 th over). Unfortunately he got out after doing the hard work to prevent an imminent total collapse. Failed Kusal & Thiri got selected to the squad for the immediately followed series in England (to miserably fail again).

UT was strangely axed again. He was sent home after that solitary ODI Vs Ireland, played in 10 months.

That was the Third Step of doom & gloom journey in opening spot..

Even with the comfort of BD & Middle-eastern docile decks Kusal managed only 620 runs from 27 ODIs @28.18 with a solitary 100 Vs BD & 3x 50 (Vs BD /Ind /PK) up to May 2014, where all other front order batters averaged well over 35. Since May 2014, Kusal Perera was rewarded with further 14 ODIs to play regularly in consecutive series Vs Ire in Ire / Vs Eng in Eng / Vs SA in SL / Vs Eng in SL / Vs Ind in India/, despite repeatedly failing outside home comfort & managing a paltry 219 runs @ 15.64 Av with a solitary 50 in SL & FIVE- DUCKS from 14 innings (overall long sequence of Single-Digit <10 ball innings 19 /41= almost 50% including 4 innings ICC-CT-2013 & 1 in 2015 WC & 7 DUCKS). !

Tharanga was overlooked for the series in Eng & series Vs SA played in SL in July 2014. After another 3 months away since solitary ODI in Ireland, Tharanga was given 3 Odis Vs PK & 2 Test Series Vs SA & PK, (after SEVEN year break from Test Cricket) where he scored heavily & gathered 306 runs @ 38.25 Av with scores of 83 & 30 Vs SA/ 92 & 45 Vs PK (Series Winning highest contributor in decider match). Despite all this & being the highest scorer (76 runs) in warm up match Vs Indian XI, he was given just another Solitary ODI Vs India after THREE months to play & sent home (where he scored 27 runs, 4 times more than his replacements collectively gathered from remaining 4 ODIS), reinstalling Kusal at the top to contribute 2 DUCKS from 3 innings in that humiliating 5-0 disaster.

That was the Fourth Step of doom & gloom journey in opening spot.

Then the Englishmen came to play a 7-ODI series in SL. As usual, Kusal was selected yet again to open, despite his dismal performances (3 in- 4 runs @1.33 Av) in humiliating defeat India. UT was overlooked for a place in the Squad for the SIXTH time in 17 months, since July 2013. Kusal failed again at the top, managing just 99 runs @ 19.80 Av from 5 consecutive innings adding another couple of DUCKS to his collection.

That was the Fifth Step of doom & gloom journey in opening spot….

Immediately afterwards, Test squad to NZ was announced. Shockingly the highest contributor (Tharanga 92 & 45), in the previously won Test series decider Vs PK in August, was omitted from the Squad to NZ. For the first time in history, such a despicable omission occurred in SL (probably in the World). Dimuth Karunarathne was selected instead, with no justification whatsoever for his selection over UT. Dimuth failed in both Tests, except for one lottery inning of 152 (due to a dropped dolly in his single digit). It only reduced the loosing margin, but heavily contributed to the 2-0 defeat with his low scores of 0, 16, 17 in all other 3 innings, failing to survive even a few overs in 2 Tests. Obviously, Dimuth’s selection only blocked the deservedly earned chance of Upul to impress with some good Test knocks in NZ, prior to WC & NZ ODI series!

That was the Sixth Step of doom & gloom journey in opening spot…

Strangely, WC & NZ 7-ODI series squads were announced, including Dimuth to open in ODIs (having no credentials whatsoever in ODIs), based on that solitary lottery inning of 152 in doomed Test Series. As predicted he repeatedly failed, playing in 6 ODIs Vs NZ to score appalling 83 runs @ 13.83 Av – 63.38 SR to bring down SL with another series defeat in the hands of Kiwis. Eventually he ended up in middle order in the WC to collect 37 runs @ 18.50 Av from 4 ODIs.!

Overlooked opener Tharanga has a good record in NZ (better than Dilly up to that tour) 8 in- 264 runs @ 33.00 Av- 70 SR with 1 x 100+ & 1 x 50+ in ODIs. But nothing matters in the eyes of Selectors in his case, to be considered for a reasonable window of opportunity, while all others keep receiving consecutive chances gifted by Sanath & Co, despite constant failures. This was the general scenario, since the day UT was initially axed in 2013.

That was the Seventh Step of doom & gloom journey in opening spot…..

Then started the WC with Thirimanne becoming the opener & he did a much better job than the rest, thriving on repeated luck to have all opponents to spill easy dollies given to slips, when at single digit in all 3 productive innings Vs BD /NZ /Eng. Other 3 innings Vs AF / Aus / Scot ended with 0, 1 & 4. He did a god job at his correct position as number 4, scoring 41 runs facing 48 balls in QF, under immense pressure initiated by failed openers at the top.

Tharanga was grafted to the squad, when another failure Jeevan Mendis got injured just before the WC match Vs BD in Sydney. He was not considered for the playing XI quoting “jet-lag” & put him to play Vs Aus in the following match & sent @ Number 8 in the TAIL to bat with Sachitra & Malinga towards the end, after that encounter has been already driven to a hopeless situation by the Top & Middle order batters (except for Sanga, Dilly & Chandi). If Tharanga was sent at least when MJ got out for a low score at 30thover, SL had a good chance of utilizing UT’s capabilities & experience as a partnership builder & a situation appropriate aggressor, when established (Tharanga holds the 3rd highest boundary scoring frequency per number of balls in SL – 11.7 balls per boundary).

Then Kusal Perera was parachuted to the side, in place of injured Chandimal & found a firm place in the playing XI immediately, over previously came Tharanga (similar to what happened in the disaster at India in Nov). He went on to play Vs Scot in a small batting paradise at Hobart & managed just 24 runs coming at Number 6 spot in a match, 2 well above run-a-ball quick Hundreds scored by Sanga /Dilly & a record breaking 32 ball 51 scored by Mathews with 6 x 4s in one over!

Next came the most crucial knockout stage WC Quarter Finals at SCG, as always happened during the past two years, the Biggest Failure in history at the Opening Spot, Kusal Perera was sent to open with Dilly for the 40th time (within past 20 months), pushing rejuvenated Thirimanne to come one down & smiling Tharanga to warm a bench outside playing XI, as continuously dished-out by selectors.

That was the Eighth Step of doom & gloom journey in opening spot….

Batting was SL strength to rely upon in that WC. But, SL selectors left out the 3rd MOST Productive Batsmen in Global Competitions, (WU Tharanga: 26 innings = 20 WC+ 6 CT – 1013 Runs – 75.78 SR – 42.20 Av – 4 x 100 – 5 x 50). Unbelievably, they preferred to send a repeated failure like Kusal Perera to open with Dilly Vs SA, in that crucial match in Sydney. Considering Kusal (constantly failed) over Upul Tharanga, as repeatedly done during the past couple of years. This ultimate move hammered the final nail to SL’s Coffin in 2015 WC, ending the Two-year long doom & gloom journey up to WC, started with axing of SL’s MOST EXPERIENCED Number ONE Opener Tharanga (who Opened 156 ODIs) from SL’s Opening Spot.

After an enjoyable long tour of NZ & Australia, Chief Selector Mr. Sanath Jaysuriya & Coach Mr. Marvan Athapaththu were seen returning to the Island with broad smiles on their faces as if nothing had ever happened.
“Opener” Kusal Janith Perera just added another one to his "PRESTIGIOUS" long sequence of Single-Digit <10 ball innings 19 /41= almost 50% (including 4 innings ICC-CT-2013 & 1 in 2015 WC & 7 DUCKS) contributing big-time to smash all dreams & hopes of millions, in our Island Nation!                       

                                                                               D – O – M –  E – D…. !

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