ICC Cricket World Cup is to be held in another 54 days. All the 14 teams have named their 30 men preliminary squads and only England has named their final 15 men squad. Sri Lanka is yet to name their final 15 men squad and it is more likely that SLC will do it in between or after the New Zealand tour ODIs.
As the CWC 2015 is to be held in unfamiliar conditions in Australia and New Zealand, which have two contrasting conditions, though they are in the same geological region, SLC selectors would find their work extremely difficult to find the most perfect combination to retain the balance of the team for demanding conditions.
Traditionally, Sri Lankans have performed well in ICC’s global tournaments especially in the new millennium. After winning the Wills CWC 1996, and a disastrous CWC 1999 campaign, Sri Lankans have reached Semi-finals in CWC 2003 and finals in both CWC 2007 and 2011, without winning it again. Though the squads have not been perfectly structured in terms of individuals and with some eyebrows raising selections, Sri Lankans have been able make their country proud on each occasion.
Here I am trying to figure out what the squad is going to be like comparing with the squads of previous two CWCs and finally to present my preferences on the squad structure for CWC2015.
CWC 2007 was held in Caribbean and CWC 2011 was held in sub-continent, which are somewhat similar conditions. Here is the team structure, where I have not listed individuals.
|6 batsmen||6 batsmen|
|2 spin all-rounders||1 spin all-rounder|
|3 fast bowling all-rounders||3 fast bowling all-rounders|
|2 fast bowlers||2 fast bowlers|
|2 spinners||3 spinners|
|3 wicket keeper batsmen||3 wicket keeper batsmen|
|2 opening batsmen||2 opening batsmen|
Here I have considered Chaminda Vaas and Nuwan Kulasekara as fast bowling all-rounders and T.M Dilshan as a spin all-rounder and a wicket keeper.
As the conditions have been helpful for swing and seam bowling in the Caribbean in 2007, some medium fast swing and seam bowling all-rounders and fewer spinners in the squad than in 2011 have been included, where as in 2011 in slow low pitches in the sub-continent a spin heavy attack and some medium fast seam bowling all-rounders have been included. In both times altogether 5 fast bowlers and 4 spinners have been included including all-rounders, rest being batsmen including 3 wicket keeping options. Both times the selections proved to be spot on as our bowlers responded well and did a pretty good job apart from the two finals.
In CWC 2015 it is already clear that in down under fast bowling conditions and less spin friendly conditions are to be found. So a heavy fast bowling attack should be included in the squad. So here is the structure of the squad I am going to propose.
|1 spin all-rounder|
|2 fast bowling-bowling all-rounders|
|1 fast bowling-batting all-rounder|
|4 fast bowlers|
|3, 4 wicket keeper batsmen|
|3 opening batsmen|
First I would like to concentrate on bowling combinations to match the given listed criterion. Here altogether 7 fast bowlers and 3 spinners are being listed with 8 batsmen.
Going with only 2 spinners should be the way as there are only a few spin friendly venues are to be come across. So a heavy fast bowling attack should be included. Thus fast bowlers would have a heavier workload and 2, 3 fast bowlers and at least 2 fast bowling all-rounders should play in a match. So an extra fast bowler should be included in the squad with an extra fast bowling all-rounder. Also to be seen in recent tournaments since England tour in June/ July 2014, almost all the fast bowlers played are injury prone, though they performed very well a series after series. So the presence of 4 fast bowlers in the squad makes sense. Also an extra backup is needed in the fast bowling department and good replacements have to kept stand by.
It would not be a problem to find 1 fast bowling-bowling all-rounder out of 2 and 1 fast bowling-batting all-rounder. I think that 2 spinners are covered in terms of individuals to go with 1 spin all-rounder.
There are problems with the 2nd fast bowling-bowling all-rounder and the 4th fast bowler. Given recent international form and performance levels this would be a hefty task to find and reason for SLC selectors.
Considering batsmen, 5 batsmen are needed to play with 1 fast bowling-batting all-rounder and 1 fast bowling-bowling all-rounder in a match. So with 6 batsmen in the squad would be ideal as in previous two occasions. As there were enough wicket keeper batsmen played in the recent tournaments, it would not be a big deal to find at least 2 wicket keeper batsmen.
Then there is a problem with opening batsmen. Who would open was a problem even in recently finished England tour. Since India tour, in 12 matches there have been 3 opening combinations tried and only twice they have been able to make an impact start.
I think it’s not a good idea to play Mahela Jayawardena, if included in the squad, as an opener. With his experience and the ability to rotate the strike in the middle overs and increase the tempo of an inning when needed, in unfamiliar conditions, he is badly needed in the middle order, at No. 4. This gives Angelo Mathews, the captain, a breathing space as he can build an inning with a senior batsman and keep his best to launch an onslaught in the last 15 overs. So there is a problem to find much needed 2 batsmen. If Mahela Jayawardena is to open, his middle order spot is exposed; Angelo Mathews should not come at No. 4; if he remains at No. 4 an opening spot is exposed. So the 2 batsmen have to be selected to suit those positions, one for opening position and the other for No. 4.
So SLC selectors have problems ahead of them. Still 7 matches are to be played before the CWC 2015. In between the New Zealand tour they have to find 2 batsmen, 1 fast bowling-bowling all-rounder and 4th fast bowler. I think that the rest of the places have been covered in terms of individuals. Also there is one thing I don’t want to see, a youngster making a debut in CWC 2015. Sri Lankans have enough experienced players to be picked and all is needed is to manage their workload before CWC 2015. If SLC selectors were able to select the perfect combinations Sri Lankans have a pretty good hit at the trophy.