The New Zealand series brought about an incredible opportunity for Sri Lanka to test their younger guns against a test playing team that has been attenuated. Everyone expected to see the youngsters getting a chance and play, but, what awaited was something that’s unexpected given the context, but very much usual given the history.
First Kusal Perera was expected to open with Dilshan but instead Dimuth Karunaratne was played. That was quite understandable with the run of form Dimuth was in. But in a team in which 4/6 players are run accumulators- players who can’t hit sixes at will, the inclusion of Dimuth who is also from the same brand of “run accumulators” is a question that needs to be answered quickly. Kusal, though he failed in a few matches, is somebody very much capable of using the long handle, and most importantly a rare breed in Sri Lanka who can hit sixes at will. Dimuth’s golden duck would have sent the selectors and the management a strong message that results will be yield only with patience and expecting immediate impact is not some thing very professional. Like Kusal, Dimuth too failed, but if the selectors are to persist with one of them to yield results, as they would have learnt yesterday, it should be none other than Kusal Perera.
Though, Sri Lanka’s innings yesterday marched on safely, a big vacuum in the lower order was severely exposed at the latter overs. In the death, we always had someone called Thisera Perera who would come and launch a few crackers to send the ball over the rope. Even when he failed that Perere fear factor,the very idea that there’s a threat awaiting in the form of Perera not only made the opposition ponder over bowling changes, but it also gave Sri Lanka a degree of freedom and hope. But yesterday, in the absence of this match winner, Sri Lanka struggled to score boundaries which eventually forced them to rely on Kulasekera and Malinga to provide the big hitting. But fortunately for them, when these two failed Senanyake managed some lusty blows in the last over to take Sri Lanka to a justifiable score after the hard work done by Sanga and Dilshan.
Another grave mistake that caught everyone’s eyes was the way Chandimal and Thirimanne were used. While most of us question Chandimal’s and Thirimanne’s place in the T20 team, they both arrived as late as the final 10 overs, a spell during which team look to break free. As expected Thirimanne perished trying to keep the scoreboard ticking and Chandimal tried an ugly slog and was clean bowled.
Against a weak New Zealand attack most expected that Chandimal and Thirimanne would be given promotions. But it was the same old story, the 3 seniors coming up the order, leaving the death overs to the innoceent understudies who are still dependant on baby sitters to hunt the Kiwi bowling.
I won’t question Sanga’s batting position. He thrives at number three, and with the world cup to be played down under he is the only one in the lineup who can counter the fast bowlers with ease. But, bringing in Mahela at number 4 wasn’t the best of decisions. Although he was sent in to up the run rate, which was apparent in the strokes he played, quite contrast to the settle-in-then-launch technique of him, I feel that Chandimal should be given a permanent position at number 4 with Thirimanne at number 5. Mahela can play at the number 6 position, and his ability to pick gaps and hit over the top, with modern fielding restrictions would make him a better finisher and also would help Sri Lanka score quickly at the death. Mahela’s astute shots and Mathews belligerent batting can form a juicy recipe.
The exclusion of Perera haunted Sri Lanka at the death, and looking at the way Lankan’s struggled to hit sixes enforces the need to play Perera in every game. If Sri Lanka is to play two spinners, which in my point of view not very necessary given the improved bowling performance of Dilsahn, they can drop Kulasekara, since Perera is a better bat and Kulasekara’s bowling can be compensated by Mathews’s. Sri Lanka can even opt to play Perera as a specialist batsmen which may not be a bad idea, but that would depend a lot on not losing wickets early, building partnerships and the survival of the three seniors, until the arrival of Perera.
Yesterday was a wasted opportunity, not just because we were playing a weaker opposition, but also because the game didn’t produce results. Although weather is unpredictable, with the series being played during a wet season and with the rains most likely to disrupt the second game, it won’t be a bad idea to trust the youngsters and give them the chances they deserve. If there is going to be another washout why at least not let the youngsters gain some exposure? If the inevitable will happen again, then even a failure from the youngsters would do no harm to the end result of the game. Sri Lanka should definitely make use of these blessings in disguise.