The clamp down on fuel prices may have helped the motor geeks in Sri Lanka gain enough fuel to generate firepower to gratify their globetrotting aspirations, but the islanders’ cricket team lacks the very firepower during the tail part of their journey as they have run out of fuel and stalled after getting rocket fueled starts on many an occasion.
Sri Lanka’s world cup preparations have gone awry as they are still not sure of the combination they are to field in the world tournament down under. There are provisions in the regulations for the world cup tournament to make amendments to the apprised 15 member squad until the 6th of February. With Russel Arnold tweeting that ideas on social media would be discussed in a meeting, a few changes to the squad could be safely anticipated.
In my perspective, the major complaint I have about the squad is the scarcity of batsmen in the phalanx. This becomes obvious in the fact that Sri Lanka are forced to play Dimuth Karunaratne in the middle order in the face of him being a misfit there, since Sri Lanka has no other batsman to replace the injured Angelo Mathews.
Even a cursory observation would lay the fact bare, that most of our batsmen are similar in their style of play. Dilshan, Mahela, Sangakkara, Karunaratne, Thirimanne and Chandimal are all players belonging to the same school- the school of run accumulators. Angelo Mathews is the only player with the ability clear ropes comfortably, and the other two who could do so are bits and pieces players: Thisara Perera and Jeevan Mendis.
The two misfits
Lahiru Thirimanne in the 5th ODI at Dunedin, at the apex of the batting order, ostensibly played the best knock by an opener who has partnered Dilshan in the recent past. With Dimuth’s triple failures, Thirimanne is bound to open in the world cup as well. This will render Karunaratne’s role in the squad invalid, for a spot in the middle is not for a player of Karunaratne’s kind.
The other misfit in the squad is Jeevan Mendis. Rahul Dravid opined that, the new ODI rules will desist captains from bowling a part timer and went onto state that teams should play five specialist bowlers. Russel Arnold has also been forthcoming about the need to be aggressive by playing an all specialist XI instead of relying on bits and pieces players.
In this series against New Zealand, Mendis has bowled a total of 20 overs- exactly the same number of overs delivered by Dilshan. Dilshan has also picked up the same number of wickets as Mendis but at a better economy rate. With the left hander yet to impress with the bat, this puts the place of the leg spinner under question. Dilshan fulfills the role of a spin bowling all rounder, so Sri Lanka should try to include a fast bowling all rounder.
Farveez Maharoof was a name thrown out often in the social media, and I believe he needs to be reckoned with. Maharoof in his last tour of Australia picked up nine wickets at an economy rate of 5.10. He is also a useful basher lower down the order, and his batting might provide the much need impetus at the death. His height coupled with his experience might become godsend, if Malinga struggles to recuperate early.
Sri Lanka needs big hitters, and the only player with some experience who could clear boundaries is Kusal Perera. Yes, he failed as an opener, but that shouldn’t snatch away a place in the lower order from him.
A generic squad
Picking a general squad becomes a conundrum with many permutations to consider. Right from the series against England, Sri Lanka’s top 5 have played out 37.32 overs on the average every game. So the number 6 & 7 get only 12 overs to bat- a period during which run rate is expected kiss the sky. But Sri Lanka have played either Dinesh Chandimal or Thirimanne at number 6 and the number 7 spot has alternated between Seekuge Prasanna and Jeevan Mendis.
Since the end of the Indian series, Sri Lanka has scored an average of 108.2 runs in the last 15 overs at a run rate of 7.219, which is hardly suffice considering that the top order lays a firm foundation to launch from in most games. This was well exposed in the 4th ODI against New Zealand when the Lankan batsmen splurged an opportunity score in excess of 300. The problem, however, doesn’t lie with the young batsmen but with the position which they bat at.
Sri Lanka has struggled to finish innings on a high since Mathew’s promotion to number 5, as neither Thirmanne nor Jeevan Mendis excel in putting up substantial scores with the tail. Though, Chandimal did reasonably well in the last two ODIs against England, the selectors should be mindful of the fact that the right hander looks far-fetched in trying to hit big.
Thisara Perera has the ability to play behemoth shots, but has been erratic. His bowling too has lacked finesse. But excluding him cannot be an option, since the all rounder has come up with performances that turned the match on its head. His knack of playing big in big games should also place a moratorium on his incapacitation.
This would mean Sri Lanka should play Farveez Maharoof at number 7, so that he could fill in the void, if Mathews is unable to get 10 overs from Perera. Maharoof will also provide the muscle power needed lower down the order.
Mathews should move down to number 6 to finish innings with a flurry that the modern game demands. Chandimal has excelled at number 4 down under. But Mahela’s prowess at that position, will force Chandimal to bat at 5. If Mathews is reluctant to move down, then Kusal should be slotted at 6, since the need is for a man with powerful arms and not for a man with a sound technique.
Sri Lanka should also ponder the option of playing 7 specialist batsmen. Even if Perera, is not going to complete his full quota, Dilshan and Thirimanne should be able to compensate. Mathews has not bowled himself much, as he has delivered only 13.5 overs in 5 matches, thus far. The bloggable actuality is that he is Sri Lanka’s second leading wicket taker, and the most economical fast bowler between both sides in the series. Whether it is owing to his injury is not known.
But, Sri Lanka’s primary struggle has been with the ball and Sri Lanka should go with 6+5 combo to not let the game slip away in the middle overs from a position of strength.
This article was initially published in a href=”http://www.islandcricket.lk/opinion/editorial/40452012815″>Island Cricket