With 3 days left to prepare for the most anticipated event in the cricketing calendar, Sri Lanka still has a list of unanswered questions. With Sanga and Mahela in the twilight of their careers, WC 2015 will be subsumed in the emotions surrounding their last opportunity to win the world cup. The task ahead is huge but with Dilshan’s blistering starts, Sanga and Mahela’s ferocious concentration, heroics of Mathews and pyrotechnics of Hereth give us the hope that it can still happen for the beloved sons of mother Lanka.
Contrary to the sub continental norm, fast bowlers can swing the ball prodigiously in Australia and New Zealand. With the pitches favoring pace, a lot will be expected of Malinga and co. There can be no doubt that our hopes of success will rely heavily upon Malinga, however, we need another fast bowler to counteract the ploy. Malinga with his unorthodox action has fooled many a batsman, his propensity to generate extra bounce and relentless accuracy has branded him deadly in the death overs; however his absence from international cricket since September makes him vulnerable to the World Cup conditions. Even if Malinga gets going, he will need to be supported by compatriots Kulesekara and Thisara Perera come February 14th. Now the real question is who is going to support Malinga? Do we still go with the experienced Kulesekara who hasn’t been fruitful in the recent past or do we go for a newer option? We have Shaminda Eranga, waiting in the wings, capable of bagging crucial wickets and bowls at a decent economy. There’s also the new comer- Dushmantha Chameera, who was impressive in his debut against New Zealand a few weeks ago and is my personal favorite (Given they are selected at the expense of Prasad).
The only steady option in our bowling department now seems to be Spin (which according to the experts won’t be influential at the WC). We have Hereth, an experienced spinner who exerts control, and a more attacking slow-bowling option in Senanayake. Beyond the bowlers and all-rounders, Tillakaratne Dilshan is among the most reliable part-time spinners in limited-overs cricket, and is capable of delivering timely strikes.
There’s still a question regarding the opening combination, who should open the batting with Dilshan? Should it be Thirmanne, who is a slow and unreliable starter or should it be the experienced and reliable Mahela who can build partnerships when caution is the need of the hour. In my opinion I would have still gone with Kusal Perera who has the talent to ignite breezy starts and intimidate the opposition on his day.
Even with the esteemed duo of Sanga and Mahela, middle order remains to be erratic. There’s no doubt, we have to avoid the early inroads, but we also need a commanding middle order that can pave the way for some potentially combustible batting at the end. Mathew’s’ growth as a batsmen and his ability to play with the tail has been a welcoming change in the dressing room. But with Mathews settling at number 5 and Thisara Perera cheaply giving away his wicket who is going to crack some meaty blows and apply the finishing touches? We need a good finisher to set an impressive target or to help us cross the line. And Jeevan Mendis cannot be the answer, even though I hope he proves me wrong.
Furthermore, Thirimanne and Chandimal are still a concern. They need to rediscover their inner steel to keep their forgone promises and break their barren patch. What is vastly expected of them is to manipulate the middle overs expertly milking ones and twos while occasionally finding the fence. Karunaratne’s 46 against SA in the warm up game has been very encouraging, however can he be counted to deliver at the mega event? His ODI average and his recent form suggests not.
Like his predecessors Mathews plays with a smile but shows the steel in his Character when required. The way he stood by his mate Senanayake during the Butler mankad goes on to prove he is fitting well into the boots Arjuna and Mahela left in the dressing room. Led superbly by the soaring Angelo Mathews, and given the nation’s rich history in ICC tournaments, it’s reasonable to assume that Sri Lanka will strive to make us proud. Despite the recent defeats and unanswered questions, what is expected of us as fans is to put our trust in the chosen eleven and get behind the boys.
There’s no other team that plays for their fans more than the Sri Lankans, but in return the fans have stood by them in victory and defeat and have carried them through many a rough patches and have waited long enough to witness the world cup glory one more time. Will it happen? I don’t see why not. After all cricket owes it to the most consisting cricketing nation and its beloved sons.
In victory and in defeat we are proudly Sri Lankan! I still believe… Do us proud boys 🙂