Sri Lanka's chance to stabilize the opening slot
With the 2015 world cup countdown already started, Sri Lanka would begin their fresh season against a depleted New Zealand side that
has been battered by the Bangladeshis 3-0. It is a rare opportunity for the Sri Lankans, especially considering the fact that they have two new captains for ODI and T20, and it will be some respite for the players after having played some tough oppositions in the last few months. Although they played Bangladesh earlier this year, with Angelo Mathews making his debut as the captain, the pressure to succeed and the subsequent failure to win the series made it a watershed for the future of Sri Lanka cricket.
Now that the Sri Lankan side is pretty much settled and the series win against the Proteas at home has answered so many questions raised against Sri Lanka Cricket amidst the political power games played around cricket, this series presents Sri Lanka with an opportunity to experiment with some of their younger guys and to improve their bench strength. New Zealand is not a very intimidating team when they play in Sri lanka and the fact that they will not be playing some of their prominent players will only make it worse. But from Sri Lanka’s perspective, playing a full strength side isn’t a necessity while a series win against the Kiwis with a younger side wouldn’t go unnoticed. Rather than scoffing New Zealand Cricket for sending a second string team against a side that has been doing well especially in home soil, Sri lanka should see this as a blessing in disguise to experiment their team combination to have a settled lineup for the world cup games.
The time couldn’t have been more perfect, with just around 15 months for the worldcup, it is important to play a stable side to both let the players settle into their positions and to start making wining a habit with an invariable lineup. Sri Lanka should find the right combination in this series and then field that combo in the upcoming series against the Pakistanis and in the Asia Cup. Notwithstanding the outcome of the series, Sri Lanka’s prime goal should be to build an eleven that can be formidable at the same time well balanced.
Sri Lanka has struggled to find a perfect opening partner for Dilshan in both tests and ODIs and his retirement from test cricket has doubled the problem for the selectors. Though Upul Tharanga did a reasonable job as a partner for Dilshan, more often than not his innings have been free of substance and impact that the typical Sri Lankan openers have been able to provide for Sri Lanka in the last decade, and not to forget his inconsistency with the bat.
This prompted the new selectors to go with the hard hitting Kusal Perera and though he was ostentatious during the beginning of his carrier, his aureole petered out, flickered and went out gracefully just as fast as his promotion to the opening slot. In the triangular tournament against the Windies and India, Sri Lanka tried with Mahela as an opener and as he has proven over and over again, Mahela proved how a good batsman he can be as an opener. But with the future in the mind and given the precarious Sri lankan middle order Sri Lanka would want him to languish in the middle order than to have him show his prowess as an opener. With Kusal Perera’s coming back to form and Dimuth’s brilliance with the bat as an opener in both tests and ODIs, Sanath Jayasuriya would be looking forward for at least one of them to cement their place in the empty slot. Though it might turn out to be a headache, Sanath Jayasuriya won’t make a compaint, if both star with the bat.
Sri Lanka should play Dilshan in the first two ODIs, and if they are to rest one of those 3 stalwarts of Si Lankan cricket it should either be Mahela or Snagakkara. Kusal Perera should open with Dilshan in the first two ODIs, and should he not do justice to his selection Dimuth should get a chance in the third ODI, even though I believe Kusal deserves as many chances as Rohit Sharma got to prove his worth, since the competition to get in to Sri Lankan side has increased admirably after the Great Lankan Opening Batsman took charge.
Sri Lanka or atleast I would be hoping for Kusal to succeed since Sri Lanka needs an aggressor who can carry out an onslaught on International bowling attacks and we can’t afford another run grafter in the caliber of Sangakkara, Thirimanne and Chandimal in to our line up since what modern cricket requires is completely the opposite end to what Sri Lanka is now.
Besides the woes in the opening slot Sri Lanka would be very much relieved to find the healthy competition for the prime spinner’s spot in the lineup. Though Rangana herath easily tops the list, his wrong side of 30 would mean Sri Lanka would look forward to Sachithra Senanayake to grab the opportunity. Sachithra Senanayake has been able to perform consistently in the recent past and his smart fielding and good lower order batting will only strengthen the Sri Lankan side. Ajantha mendis come back into the side has not been as bad as it was after his spell of mystery was unraveled. Finally, it seems he has learnt the art of bowling as an ordinary offbreak, legbreak bowler.
Malinga being the incumbent leader of the pace attack Sri Lanka would want to play Kulasekera and Thisera Perera together with him atleast until the seires is won with the second ODI, as being predicted, in which case Sri Lanka might want to give Lakmal a chance.
Sri Lanka can afford to rest one of the two Seniors: either Snagakkara or Mahela and play either Dimuth Karunaratne or Ashan Priyanjan, but once again I would find Dimuth losing the duel with the all-round ability of Priyanjan winning him a place in the team. His medium pacers might be useful for Sri Lanka with the World Cup to be played down under.
This is a one of a kind opportunity that brought itself in the guise of a humiliation or as a well deserved disgrace for chopping off tests as some of the cricket experts put it, which Sri Lanka should make use of to make a stable playing XI that would have the right blend of young blood and experience to make a perfect Sri Lankan cricket recipe.