We’re into the last week of the group stages and Sri Lanka have quietly qualified for the Quarterfinals. However, bowling frailties and fielding blunders continue to haunt us despite a resurgence from our batting line up. Thirimanne has gained some confidence from that well-crafted ton against England, the big three are back to business as usual, Chandi has left us all speechless after his quick-fire half century against the Aussies and the skipper too has rendered his services when needed.
However, we still haven’t ticked any boxes in regards to bowling and fielding. We saw Malinga back to his best in patches against Australia but his line is lacking consistency and the venom he possessed in his bowling looks to be gone. It’s unfortunate that injury has sapped key players of form, however it’s the World Cup and we need his compatriots to step it up. It is evident that Kulesekara once hailed as the best T20 bowler for his nagging line and his ability to swing the ball has lost his cadence, Lakmal too was struggling for accuracy against England. And that leaves us with the young Chameera as our only other pace option to counteract the ploy alongside Malinga. So why not give him a chance against Scotland or bring back Lakmal for all we know, anyone can do better than Thisara at death.
For years Sri Lanka has thwarted their opponents with their spinners, initially with Murali and now with Hereth. However, Hereth hasn’t been a wicket-taker but has remained economical until he too was sapped with an injury. Senanayake hasn’t been the same since correcting his action. The part timer Dilshan has however snared crucial wickets. Yes, I understand we can’t have a perfect outing every game but we have to get our combination right before it’s too late.
The game against Scotland, can serve a very important role in allowing the team to get the combinations right before the quarterfinals which now looks likely to be against South Africa (given Sri Lanka beats Scotland and Bangladesh lose to the Blackcaps) and test the strength of their bench. This will not only give the bowlers a chance to improve their disciplines but will also allow the team to improve as a unit in the field.
At this point with injury worries at stake, our selectors should not be lulled into thinking three frontline bowlers can get the job done. I think it’s time we play with a combination of six batsmen, an all-rounder and four specialist bowlers. Mathews showed worrying signs during the game against Australia, this in my opinion is mainly due to the immense work load and pressure on his shoulders. He has acted as a frontline bowler, a middle order batsmen and a captain in the recent games. However, if we bring in an extra bowler it will give him more options and he doesn’t have to over work and get himself injured. Not at least a repeat of the 2011 debacle.
One more thing to remember for the selectors and Mathews himself is that Thisara Perera is not a death bowler, he can be counted to bowl a few overs in the middle, however he should never be given the ball after 40 overs. His lengths are too short and as a result has allowed the batsmen to heave and cut frequently. As we witnessed during the T20 finals Malinga alone couldn’t have handled the death over pressure that well. He was well assisted by Kule and the duo together made the batsmen dance to their tunes.
So in my opinion as I mentioned before the line-up should include 6 specialist batsmen (Thirimanne, Dilshan, Sanga, Mahela, Mathews, Kusal) an all-rounder (Thisara Perera) and 4 specialist bowlers (Hereth, Lakmal, Seekuge/Chameera and Malinga).