It’s not who won but how the game was played
Posted on April 18th, 2011

Dr.Tilak Fernando

Cricket is a “ƒ”¹…”team’ game that demands a great deal of concentration and physical energy. Any lapses will not only be costly but certain to give the opponents the advantage to dominate Mahela Jayawardene, in 2007 and Kumar Sangakkara’s captaincy during the 2011 ICC World Cup helped Sri Lanka to come up to the final stages.

Regrettably, on both occasions they had to be contented being the runners up. In a way, to end up as second best is also a great achievement but there are wider post-mortem comments and criticism of varying degree questioning whether Sri Lanka team fought the final battle hard as professionals aggressively and fearlessly, which has ultimately brought about some chaos in Sri Lankan cricket shortly after the defeat when the captain, vice captain, the Chairman and the entire selection Board decided to resign from their posts.

Turn defeat into victory

Chandi Perera (also known as GC), an old Anandian Cricketer and the brains behind the highly successful “ƒ”¹…”Festival of Cricket (FOC) in the UK’ who has had the rear opportunity to be team mates with Sir Vivian Richards at the legendary Lansdown Cricket Club in Bath, Somerset, during their students days in the UK, has expressed in an email to me his views which corresponds with many cricket “ƒ”¹…”pundits’ who have voiced at post-mortems of the ICC World Cup final game in Mumbai.

Speaking optimistically GC says, “There’s always the opportunity to turn a defeat into a victory if one is prepared to learn from one’s mistakes”. Discarding negative criticisms, baseless allegations and conspiracy theories which are doing the rounds at rocket speed through the press and mail-shots, he takes a microscopic view at what actually happened, and why it went wrong for Sangakkara and his Sri Lankan “ƒ”¹…”Lions’ in Mumbai.

According to GC, Sri Lankan team effort in fielding was much to be desired. They lacked enthusiasm and dynamism; exhibited lethargy and appeared simply predictably defensive contrary to the fierce Indian offensive on the field.

In cricket, the captain of a team carries full responsibility for all decisions taken during the entire game. So, where did Sangakkara go wrong? He appeared rather exhausted when Sri Lanka was defending 274 runs. This perhaps led him to take some weary decisions which obviously baffled many expert commentators on TV and radio. Furthermore, it was confirmed by many post-match commentators about the lack of fighting spirit of the Sri Lankan players on the field.

Even professional cricket analysts on Sky TV such as Sir Ian Botham, David Gower, Mike Atherton agreed that the Sri Lanka score was defendable and was the highest in a World Cup final match.

Choice of players

Team game
*Demands concentration
*Physical energy
*Requires dynamism
*Demands enthusiasm

There are many unanswered questions to this dilemma. Was the entire team actuality dispirited prior to the game? Were they dismayed with the selectors’ choice of players for the final game? Was all the hype that demonstrated in Sri Lanka prior to the grand finale overbearing with high expectations forced on cricketers by the whole nation ? Were they complacent simply to finish off as the runners up? Whatever the reasons behind, the rapturous atmosphere in the stadium full of disorderly Indian supporters too may have had an intimidated effect on Sri Lankan fielders.

he field placements were not the usual aggressive attacking nature, particularly after India was 31 for 2 wickets. The bowling changes brought about in the early stages were ineffective after the initial two wickets.

Why was Dilshan not given to ball much earlier, like in the earlier matches remains a puzzle especially when Kulasekara was ineffective! In simple terms the bowlers were not able to penetrate the attacking Indian batsmen, especially in the last lap which gave away the game.

Different picture

The spinners were used too late. When Muralitharen’s turn came to bowl both Gambhir and Kohli were well settled. Perhaps, a combination of Murali, Dilshan, Randiv and Malinga could have been more effective than the choice made in using Kulasekara who was “ƒ”¹…”easy picking’ for Dhoni and Yuvraj Singh who were in full control.

In addition, the logic behind Perera who attempted bouncers and full-tosses on a flat wicket was unexplainable!

Sangakkara was regarded as a dynamic, clever, astute captain who was willing to take risks, but the evidence on the night of the grand finale gave spectators a surprisingly different picture. Was he actually fatigued? Was he angry with the selectors’ final decision? Did he miscalculate the ability of his players on the night? Did he lose his concentration and fail to fire-up the key players on the field to come out fighting? Why did Kumar Sangakkara, Mahela Jayawardene, Aravinda de Silva and his entire team of selectors decide to resign shortly afterwards remains an unsolved mystery.

Senior players

In such a backdrop, time is ripe for a kind of “ƒ”¹…”Lessons Learnt Committee’ to take to the field and find a new captain, a new vice captain, appoint a new national team of selectors and help the key parties responsible for the development of Sri Lanka cricket.

True, cricket is a game of Willow and Leather, but the modern-game has “ƒ”¹…”spun’ out of the original crease making mental approach of players as a crucial characteristic of the game. On the day any team who gets this mantra right has the advantage to win the game at all times.

The key Sri Lankan senior players should always be mindful that they are the “ƒ”¹…”role-models’ for thousands of budding young cricketers in the country, who will one day take over the reins to bring honour and glory to their Motherland. Seniors and the experienced have the great opportunity to influence all groups of Lankans to come together and celebrate their victories as “ƒ”¹…”one nation’.

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