With Sri Lanka playing their first game on Saturday a lot of fans are still unsure what the final lineup will be come February 14th. The biggest worry for Sri Lanka at the moment is the number 7 position as Thirimanne is almost certain to open the batting alongside Dilshan at least for the first few fixtures.
The two players the selectors have selected for the number 7 position are Jeevan Mendis and Thisara Perera. Mendis has so far been unsuccessful in New Zealand. His batting seems to be all over the place and his bowling probably is worse. It is unfair on the player himself. He was not a very reliable bowler on subcontinent wickets and then expecting him to do well in a world cup in Australian and New Zealand conditions is not the best option. The selectors have definitely made a blunder there. Perera has also been quite inconsistent with his performances. When in full flow he is a big asset to the team and when he is underperforming we still have that hope he would come good at some point. The best we could expect from him is a quickfire 30 runs and for him to bowl his 10 overs for around 50 runs picking up a couple of wickets. He would be very valuable to the team in such a scenario. Nevertheless, at the moment the team would even accept him performing in at least one department in a match. When he isn’t performing in either department he becomes a mere passenger on the team.
An option would have been to play Kusal Perera at number 7. With him batting at number 7 he would not have to play the moving ball at the start of the innings where he seemed to have an issue. If he batted at number 7 he would probably come in after the 30th over with the ball not doing as much as at the beginning of the innings but due to the two new balls being used at either end the ball would still retain its hardness thereby making it easier for Kusal to go for his shots. Add in the last power play and we could have had a player who could have really gone after the bowling in the last 15 overs. This would have been a good idea as Thirimanne isn’t the fastest of scorers and Dili has also become a more sedate and consistent batsman as of late.
Another issue is the third seamers position (assuming Malinga is fully fit). Lakmal is obviously the choice (from the selected squad) as playing a second frontline spinner on these pitches is very unlikely although Sri Lankan spinners have been the best outside Asia in recent times. However with Chameera being drafted in for the injured Prasad we could be in for a surprise. His pace and bounce on these pitches will definitely aid him. On the other hand, his inexperience and the gravity of the games he will be playing could get to the youngster. The selectors have made a brave decision to not include Eranga or another batsman however with Vaas also recently rating Chameera quite highly the selectors have gone with the extra pace and bounce which may after all be the right choice.
Chandimal is most likely to slot in at number 6 despite his form not being too great although he played a couple of good innings in the recently concluded series back in Sri Lanka.
In my opinion the line up I would have chosen would have been:
Dili, Thiri, Sanga, Mahela, Mathews, Chandimal, Kusal, Kulesekara, Senanayake/Herath, Malinga, Lakmal.
Dilshan and Mathews could have done the fifth bowlers job.
However with the resources we have,
Dili, Thiri, Sanga, Mahela, Mathews, Chandimal/Dimuth, Thissara, Kulesekara, Senanayake/Herath, Malinga, Chameera.
I do not see Mendis performing but I hope I will be proved wrong.
Dimuth maybe drafted in if Chandimal keeps failing.
This is not the ideal team in my opinion however if the top five can make runs consistently the bowlers have proven in the past that they are capable of tightening things up. However this will depend a lot on the fitness and form of the attack’s spearhead, Malinga.
The group stage schedule also seems to favor Sri Lanka since we have to play Afghanistan and Bangladesh before the bigger games although neither one of these teams should be taken lightly. This should give us the opportunity to pick the right combination from the resources available and settle down. Sri Lanka should definitely reach the quarter finals and then it is about which team handles the pressure better. Sri Lanka is a team that can handle pressure and therefore I see us at least reaching the semi finals.
The World T20 saw us coming together as a team and even overcoming team selection problems so let’s hope the boys will go one step further than the previous two attempts and bring the world cup home for a second time.