Summer blockbuster of the year for Sri Lanka cricket
By Osanda Gunaratna
A memorable yet disappointing World Cup, followed by a haunting in England, saw Sri Lanka not live up to their reputation of being former World Champions. But here is a another opportunity to put things back on track, the Australians are arriving soon for a full tour since 2004.
A series comprised of two T20s, 5 ODIs and 3 Tests against the once dominant, now fading Australian unit. But a word of caution: Australian cricketers never-give up and although they have lost their grip, they have been a very tough opposition even after losing greats such as Shane Warne, Matthew Hayden, Glen McGrath and Adam Gilchrist. It will be a cracker of a series and if Sri Lanka needs to win in all three formats, they will have to be at their very best.
So are the Sri Lankans ready to overhaul and dominate the exciting Australians, maybe not just yet. However, they can certainly make use of the Inter Provincial T20 tournament, which may start later this month, to change into our own conditions after the tour of England.
Sri Lanka start their home series with a T20 against Australia in the hills of Pallekelle, which begins on August 6th. Another T20 will also be played at the same venue on the 8th. Australia will field a team comprising some destructive T20 players in David Warner, Shane Watson, Cameron White and David Hussey.
Sri Lanka should try to make the most of it by including the young and upcoming talents such as Dinesh Chandimal, Angelo Mathews, Jeewan Mendis and Bhanuka Rajapakse, along with the experienced Kumar Sangakkara, Mahela Jayawardene and captain Tillakaratne Dilshan, which will make a solid and destructive Sri Lankan batting order.
The bowling should ideally include Lasith Malinga as the strike bowler, supported by either Dhammika Prasd or Suranga Lakmal; or even Thisara Perera and a second spinner in the form of Ajantha Mendis .
Sri Lanka start off in Kandy and will play the 1st ODI there. In selecting the ODI team, Sri Lanka Cricket selectors should be wise enough to drop Thilina Kandamby for the poor show with the bat in the England series and possibly recall Upul Tharanga, who ends his three month ban in the first week of August, they can even include Dimuth Karunaratne who did well against Scotland in Edinburgh.
Shane Watson, Shaun Marsh, Ricky Ponting, Michael Clake and the Hussey brothers will be the batsmen to watch out for from the Australian squad, whilst the bowling attack will include speedsters such as Brett Lee, Mitchell Johnson and Doug Bollinger – it is, no doubt, a relief to see no Shaun Tait, who recently retired from ODIs but was suprisingly axed from the T20 squad.
It will be a fight for the middle order against Chandimal and Jeevan Mendis but it looks like Sri Lanka are going to keep them in the XI, even if Tharanga is included. Mendis can be the second spinner, thus making Sri Lanka a long batting line up, with Malinga coming at 8 or 9 and Randiv also able to bat.
Nuwan Kulasekera’s inclusion in the side may bring negativity in the side as he has performed below par only picking up one wicket in the concluded five-match ODI series in England and also under-performing in the world cup. The selectors will be forced to axe the front-line bowler to give the chance to a better upcoming young performer, probably Nuwan Pradeep Fernando or Chanaka Welegedara.
Coming into the Test series, Sri Lanka will welcome back the likes of concrete Thilan Samaraweera, Tharanga Paranawitana,Welegedera and also Lahiru Thrimanne. The first Test begins at the picturesque Galle International Stadium and later to Pallekelle and then to the SSC. Sri Lanka have a great summer coming up against a determined Australian team and will need the mindset, determination and hard work to bring out positive results to ensure a victorious series and to bring joy and excitement to all the Sri Lankan cricket fans around the world.
I say: “bring on the Australians, we are ready!”