Sri Lanka and the World Cup 2015
Posted on February 7th, 2015

Dilrook Kannangara

Team Sri Lanka made it to the Final of the world cricketing event in the last two occasions in 2007 and 2011. However, this time its chances look slim as disastrous India and New Zealand fixes show. Team Sri Lanka was mercilessly beaten on both ODI series. The trend continues and there is no reason to believe its fortunes will change soon. The poor plight of cricket and sport in the new government is evidenced by the fact there is no dedicated Minister of Sports despite having a jumbo Cabinet of ministers and deputies. After winning the World Cup in 1996, Arjuna Ranathunga attributed the win (among other reasons) to the ready availability to resources since 1994 which was facilitated by his close association with the government. Such support is out of the question today. A worse impact is the absence of a well bonded team. The team does not have a strong captain in the likes of Arjuna, Sangakkara or Jayasuriya who can bring up the best in every batsman, fielder, bowler and the team as a whole. Angelo is an excellent cricketer but a below average captain. Recruiting a sport psychologist is a good move but his work term ends on March 9th. His services will be needed thereafter even more.

Sri Lanka must avoid playing against India in the super eights. For reasons difficult to reason and speculate, Sri Lanka has done very badly against India after IPL. Of all ODI matched with a result between them, Sri Lanka won 43% prior to IPL. It fell by a good 10% to just 33% after IPL. It was not that India improved in its ODI game after IPL, but Sri Lanka started losing to India after IPL. As can be seen from the dispute between the cricket board and Sanga, there is a very strong conflict of interest brought by the IPL tournament. National duty comes second to playing in Indian teams for money. India is likely to come second the Pool B facing the third placed team in Pool A. Sri Lanka must finish second in Pool A to avoid playing India.

The Openers

There is an ongoing debate about the openers. Kusal Perera is an explosive opener but lacks consistency. Dropping him from the top was the right decision. Consistency is key to a good opener today. The fifty over game came full circle in the past 25 years in terms of scoring runs. The first fifteen overs rule without powerplays meant a top heavy batting line up. The openers had to score as quickly as they could in the first fifteen overs and the rest of the batsmen had to keep scoring at a moderate level. The final ten overs did have their explosive batting but didn’t overshadow the first 15 overs.

With the popularity of Twenty20 and powerplays, the first fifteen overs have a diminished value than a decade ago. Now it is important to hold wickets at the start and build a long innings accelerating run score as the match progresses. The last 10 overs must carry most runs in 10 over bouts.

Given this context, it is better to have a steady opening pair than a fast scoring inconsistent player. However, Lahiru, Mahela or Dimuth must do their role in building a steady inning. First two wickets must not fall without at least 50 runs on the board.

Sanga the Anchor

Sanga is the most important in the batting department. As a result the bowling team will put a premium on his wicket. This requires some tactical playing by the rest of the team to help him make a steady inning. Comparing Sanga’s average when batting first and second shows his performance drops when batting second. The possibility of relieving him from wicket keeping if batting second should be considered. He is not a top wicketkeeper today anyway. Clear instructions should be given to all batsmen what to do in a potential run-out mix-up – Sanga’s wicket must be saved at all cost.

Sanga has picked another fight with the chief selector this time as well. He has blamed Sanath Jayasuriya for acting in disrepute of him. This follows his World Cup 2011 spat with Aravinda De Silva, the chief selector at that time. He has picked a very wrong time to vent his spleen. He should play the game, not politics.

Angelo’s batting position and style works perfectly with the current requirements of the game. However, he is not getting enough support from Lahiru, Dimuth, Chandimal and Jeevan. Unlike with the openers, at this stage of the game, there cannot be a fast batsman complemented by a slow batsman. Both must score in tandem without exposing one. The task of bringing down the required run rate to less than 6 an over rests with top order and middle order batsmen. Unless they change, Dimuth and Jeevan are useless to say the least. Kusal Janith Perera in this slot may do better.

Batting by Bowlers

Tail enders have constantly failed to bat sensibly. Thisara and Nuwan must improve their batting and play a long game than a short one. The difficult trade off of bowling and batting is at play. While bowling needs more improvement than batting, it is unwise to compromise on bowling effectiveness. This places even more pressure on Thisara, Sachithra and Nuwan. What matters is partnerships at this stage. Given the absolute hopelessness in the lower order, the late middle order must keep wickets and bat sensibly.

Bowling and Fielding

The most affected department since 2007 and 2011. Murali is no more and there is no consistent spinner in the team. Apart from Malinga, the pace attack is feeble. Even Malinga may not be up to his fearsome form having played no cricket for six months. Dushmantha Chamira is promising but yet to prove his credentials in a tight contest. Sensible bowling changes are not made by the captain in some matches. Expensive bowlers are overused at times while better bowlers end up with a few overs left.

Introducing spinners early should not be seen as a weakness. Openers of some good teams struggle against spin. It is spin, not pace that is the best bowling weapon Team Sri Lanka has this time. The support and research team must assist the players with each of the opposing batsman’s key weakness. In today’s game this knowledge cannot be taken for granted.

Fielding must improve. Converting impossible catches to dismissals is the surest way to victory.

Managing health and injuries is also important as the top five players are nearing their retirement. The long New Zealand tour is taking its toll. Players must be sent home before the World Cup for sufficient time off cricket, recuperating and spending time with their family, girlfriends, etc.

It will be a difficult World Cup this time given the disastrous ODI series recently but the tournament has proven time and again what matters is how a team performs in crucial games. Records will be broken and new heroes will emerge. It is up to the younger players to rise up to the occasion by giving their very best. The older ones must make their exit from international cricket an event to remember.

It takes only three good consecutive days to win the World Cup. All the very best Team Sri Lanka.

2 Responses to “Sri Lanka and the World Cup 2015”

  1. mario_perera Says:

    A timely article indeed.

    We all quite naturally wish the team success and hope they will deliver.

    The only real concern is that it is the same names the crop up. We have seen them all perform. Two tests in NZ followed up by 7 (YES ‘SEVEN’) ODI’s both of which were disasters are quite foreboding.

    Closely on their heels comes the world cup! I personally do not think that this world cup is going to follow the customary pattern. That means, a circumspect opening stand, followed by a constructive middle period with an explosive last ten overs. That will no doubt be our approach for want of a better.

    That is not how our opponents will plan their game. I think this world cup will see the highest number of SIXERS ever. We saw how the NZ-landers went over the 300 mark with such regularity and supreme ease. We saw how our fast bowlers, all without exception, went over the fence time in and time out.

    As the NZ-landers were our last opponents and are seen as having an outside chance, they are worth a ‘case study’. There was no ‘circumspect’ opening period. Brendon MaCullum begins his big hitting from the word go. And so it goes down the line practically down to number 11..Unlike in previous world cups, the 300 mark will not be the supreme target for complacency. It will be the MINIMUM.

    As regards the bowling department, what will play the major role will not be the traditional line and length of trundlers, but PACE and BOUNCE. The major contenders Australia, South Africa, New Zealand, are masters in this art.

    Judging from these standers our boys will have to play out of their skin especially with superlative fielding performances.

    I read that the team management has got down a psychologist for pep talks which will no doubt help as mental preparation and sustenance. Yet the real test will be on the field. We can only hope that when the hour cometh so will also the man or men.

    Mario Perera

  2. Independent Says:

    Dilrook said “Sensible bowling changes are not made by the captain in some matches. Expensive bowlers are overused at times while better bowlers end up with a few overs left”. – I agree.

    Even in the last NZ match, we had McCullum out in the first ball by Kula. But We could not capitalise on that well.
    Even in the last word cup final, we got 1st wicked early. But what happens usually is our captains tend to use up Kula’s overs as early as possible. If played carefully, he usually is never a threat because of his lack of pace. Then the batsmen get batting practice with a 3-4 runs per over rate. After that it is hard to get them out.
    It is important to have real threatening fast bowlers from both sides and get the top batsman out before they get set. Should not think of cheap overs, if we get early wickets.
    Dushmatha Chameera bowled at 146 kPh to trouble Tailor and got him out. But he is in Sri Lanka, together with the other faster bowler , Nuwan Pradeep who has taken 6 wickets in a club match being played as we write this. Dhammika Prassad is now out, I would like to see both these players in New Zealand now. We need both of them in Australia, more than Kula, who is very good in slow pitches which we do not get in Australia. He may be good if there is a match in Brisbane and if we bowl first.
    Openers are a concern, as Dilrook said. But there is no solution yet. I believe Mahela should open to get this problem solved.

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