Sri Lankan team at the crossroads

Even though Sri Lanka reached the semi-finals of the CT 2013, the team has a soft belly and stands quite exposed. Any Lankan victory in recent times is fashioned by singular contributions from seniors like Sanga, Mahela, Dilshan, and the bowling is heavily dependent on Malinga to fire, which has been somewhat of a hit and miss lately. There was a one off Kulasekera bravado in the land of the Kangaroo, but, there is little else to cheer.

Our is a little island compared to the heavyweights of the game. But, our cricket has reached great heights, much to surprise of many. That is because of the Lankan brand of cricket, that, great men like Tony Greig, Dave Whatmore or Mark Nicholas raved about. We created a uniqueness to our game. Sanath and Kalu in the famed partnership, the brilliant aggression of Aravinda and Arjuna and the remarkable success of the Murali and Vaas bowling partnership all contributed to it..

What we have nowadays is relative meekness and more often a willingness to surrender and cave in other than on a few occasions like in Australia or the CT 2013 game against the Kiwis. How would Aravinda who  walked in at 2 down for 1 and made such a brilliant counter attack that stunned the Indians and the world thought of the abject Sanga and Thirimanne partnership that virtually sealed doom for us in the recent CT semi final against India? Fair enough for one to try to last the whole innings, but what of the other? Thirimanne should never come in early unless Sanga is dismissed early. It is early days for Mathews, who is a very talented cricketer and rightfully the chosen one to lead us now.  But, his captaincy has been quite defensive and Lanka have been playing catch up unlike the aggression and boldness shown by Arjuna, Sanath and Mahela.

T20 and IPL has changed the way cricket has played. There are strokes that even the great Sanath did not play. What a transformation by India in the space of an year. They now have taken over the Lankan style of cricket with out and out aggression when batting or bowling or fielding. There was something the Lankan champions of 1996 successfully did for an year or two later. It was the aim of Arjuna to win the game in style and any target however stiff were achieved in 40 overs. Now this Indian team is doing the same thing. How will we match up to this Indian team in WC 2015, or for that matter South Africa or New Zealand which are playing with great aggression or Australia which have now realized the costly folly of not opening batting with Shane Watson.

Fielding brings everything together and we need young hands and legs. When we don’t  give a chance to these young players, such as Chandimal in the pre WC 2012 era or Angelo Perera when they are in the form us their life, and when they are brimming with confidence, but, play them an year or 2 later and then call them failures, who takes the blame? Why wasn’t Angelo Perera played against Bangladesh?  When giving these youngsters a chance to go bold they must be given the backing as Arjuna did with Sana and Kalu. When Kalu failed for 4 or 5 innings at a trot was he dropped? If he knew the guillotine was over his neck would he have been as bold or daring and would the world have known little Kalu? When there is finally some hope for the opening slot and Kusal Janith shows every bit of potential, would you drop him? When he plays next time would he go bold or play safe? There is a match winner in Thisara. He is only human. Is it warranted that he gets the chop after a few failures. What on earth is Lokuhettige doing in the team?

Who is accountable? Is it the selectors or the coaches or both. Surely Sanath should know the formula to win. He had it in him in every bone or muscle. he knew nothing other than to play with aggression. That is why the world of cricket will remember for ever. What about the coaches, in particular the batting coach. Has he crimped our style in limited over cricket.?  I think Lankan cricket is crying out for Hathurusinghe. Is there anyone who will listen?

Dhoni got it right when he knew the team had to bank on the youngsters and give them the confidence and belief. He is going to get his wish that by 2015 WC these guys will have 150 ODI’s under there belt? Where are we? We cannot do without Sanga, Mahela and Malinga. But, the youngsters have to take over the leadership mantle. Those who are felt to be talented must be given guarantees and belief and must be persisted. Play Kusal Janith at the top, have him partner with Dickwella or Karunaratne at the top, play Sanga at 3 because he likes the fast bouncy Aussie wickets and is likely to score briskly there, but, make Mahela the elder statesman and drop him to 6 or 7 to giude the lower order, bring in talented youngsters like Angelo Perera, Chathuranga De Silva, Sachithra Pathirana or Chathuranga Kumara who can bat middle to lower order bowl useful overs as did Aravinda Silva, bring Kithruwan Vithanga up to par, continue working with Bhanuka Rajapakse, consider a role for Kapugedrera or Maharoof and god almighty don’t even think of dropping Thisara Perera. He was made for limited overs. And please forget Jeewan Mendis for limited overs. He is a bits and peices cricketer who has hardly made a singular contribution.

It is not too late, but, we do not have the luxury of waiting another year.

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