For the first time in our world cup history, I thought Sri Lanka CHOKED! However, it was not for the fault of our players, but for inexplicable selection and tactical blunders by management!
Dilshan and Thirimanne were doing the job with partnerships of 67 against New Zealand, 122 against Bangladesh and 100 against England. Yet selectors chose to disrupt that partnership and open with a player they did not believe was good enough to be picked in the original squad or even as a replacement until the second injury to a batsman.
Thirimanne and Dilshan had built solid partnerships through sensible batting during the first ten overs. However, management decided that Perera, playing just his second match in the WC, was going to pull off a Sanath Jayasuriya like performance against two new balls and the best fast bowling attack in the world.
Thisara Perera had showed no form of any sort against quality teams, either with the bat or ball. Yet, he was preferred as the seventh batsman on a day that management had decided that a high risk approach at the top was the best way to start off things. A seventh batsman has seldom won matches for Sri Lanka. However, the luxury of having one does always give that extra confidence to the top order. Sangakkara’s slow approach was clearly influenced by the poor start and low confidence in the batting to come.
It can be argued that Tharindu Kaushal was a calculated gamble justified by mediocre performances from Sachithra and Seekkugge. But to play two rookie bowlers in a world cup quarter finals ahead of the experienced Lakmal defies logic.
These are just the main blunders made on the day of the quarter final! There were several other poor administrative decisions leading up to this world cup that almost certainly ruled out any possibility of Sri Lanka advancing to the final. Inability of selectors to use the opportunity of having many ODI’s in 2014 to identify an opening partner to Dilshan, a back-up for Sachithra and a back-up for Malinga were mistakes that cost the team dearly. The ill-advised tour to India ruled out any possibility of a break for the players and the opportunity to improve fielding and fitness levels that had deteriorated during the year.
Given the conditions, circumstances (setback with Malinga and Sachithra) and quality of opponents, Sri Lanka was never realistically considered a top contender to win this world cup. However, Sri Lanka still had enough ability and experience to compete hard and put themselves in a position to challenge the top teams. As such, to have ended the tournament on such a low point is not only a terrible injustice to the fans, but also a sad sendoff to the greatest duo to have ever played for Sri Lanka.