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The State of Cricket: After the Nidahas Trophy

Let's get it out of the way, yes, Sri Lanka is out of the Nidahas Trophy.

But that's okay.

Don't get me wrong, it is unfortunate that we didn't make it to the finals, but given the performance of this SL side since the Tour of Bangladesh, we shouldn't be too heartbroken about it.

This is a Sri Lankan team that for the past two years or so has been struggling to compete, let alone win, against other sides. So the fact that even in defeat we pushed sides hard is certainly more than a step or two in the right direction.

Limited Overs Internationals of the modern day have certainly become a batsman's game, so the fact that we appear to be developing (for there is certainly work to be done) a cohesive, destructive batting group is definitely a strong leg for this side to stand on.

The resurgence of Kusal Mendis as an opener has breathed life into both this Lankan side and his limited-overs career, which was lagging behind his occasional astonishing innings in the Test arena. Indeed, one could almost see parallels to the reformation of the careers of Jayasuriya and Dilshan as openers. The hope will be that he maintains, if not improves, this effectiveness that fans and players from around the globe knew he was capable of.

The investment in Kusal Perera is finally paying dividends as well. In the match against Bangladesh, he became the fastest Sri Lankan to a 1000 T20I runs, reaching the landmark in 34 innings; which in a global context is equal with Chris Gayle and Kane Williamson. That he has done so at a strike rate on par with some of the best too, tells us he is certainly a match winner. His return also has had the effect of pushing Niroshan Dickwella out of the side in the shorter formats, and could certainly do so in Tests as well if he maintains his form and fitness. However, Dickwella being a far better gloveman could keep him in the Test side where a quality keeper is a bigger necessity. 

Thisara Perera too has been showing a return to his destructive best, or perhaps even an improvement as he seems to have become a smidgen more calculated with his strokeplay rather than relying purely on wild slogs. His bowling on the other hand, while improved, is still proving to be inconsistent and expensive. From a captaincy perspective, he certainly seems to have some torrid luck and is yet to register a win under his belt.

Two players that had a below-par tournament were Dhanushka Gunathilaka and Dasun Shanaka. Gunathilaka got starts and then proceeds to get out playing one shot too many, or starts getting stuck and proceeds to be dismissed. Shanaka meanwhile got a couple of starts but for the most part, was dismissed in his first few balls. He was also definitely underutilised with the ball, because as the guy with the best T20I economy rate of the playing XI, apart from J Mendis and Aponso, he certainly should've been given a couple of overs in the middle to ease the burden on the fast bowlers who were being carted around. Given both of their steadily improving performances since the Pakistan T20 series, all-round skills, and athleticism on the field, they should be continued to be persisted with, albeit with some assistance from the coaching staff.

Now on to the more fragile aspect of the side. The bowling.

There's no two ways about it, for the most part, the Lankans were atrocious with the ball in hand.

While I understand what effect the selectors were going for with Jeevan Mendis, in that they wanted to add batting depth while adding a wrist spinner, it has to be said that it wasn't the most effective of ploys. A frontline wrist spinner needs to be in the side for the limited over formats and based on the players available the two options certainly seem to be Vandersay and Sandakan. 

Akila Dananjaya too had a forgettable trophy, proving to be neither penetrative or containing. While his talent is not in doubt, the question needs to be asked if both he and the team would be better served if he only played in the ODI and Test sides. Because in the 10 T20 games he's played since his return to top-flight cricket he has averaged 63 with an economy of 8.13. Amila Aponso could be continued with as the second spinner, or the likes of Seekuge Prasanna as well (who it must be said is a defensive wrist-spinner and not an attacking option). The outside option is to play both Vandersay and Sandakan (like India with Chahal and Yadav) but it could be ill-advised as neither appears to have the control of their Indian counterparts.

The pace bowling department is certainly in a bigger disarray with Pradeep and Lakmal being far too expensive in limited overs, Pradeep more so, and Chameera still being inconsistent. This is especially affecting us with our death bowling since you know you're in trouble when Thisara Perera appears to be your best death bowler. In my opinion, Malinga needs to return to the T20 side without question, with the likes of Lahiru Kumara and Binura Fernando supporting (based on the recent domestic T20 tournament). That being said, both Chameera and Udana also should be around, with work being done on their defensive bowling skills so that they try to make a batsman play to one side of the ground.

Clearly, no one is going to say that Sri Lanka is once again a top T20 outfit. But, any supporter or player would take the situation side is in right now over where they were 8-12 months ago. 

All the more reason that they shouldn't kick back and relax, rather build on this platform that has developed.

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