Lankan batting slump continues unabated | Daily News
SL-India ODI series review
With or without Kohli the result is still a loss

Lankan batting slump continues unabated

Upul Tharanga and Rohit Sharma
Upul Tharanga and Rohit Sharma

The consistent slumps suffered by the Sri Lankan middle order batting continued unabated as it contributed to their fourth consecutive ODI series defeat for the year when India won the three-match series 2-1. A stunning win in the first ODI at Dharamsala proved only to be a flash in the pan as Sri Lanka were outplayed in the next two matches at Mohali and Visakhapatnam to lose the series rather comprehensively without putting up much of a fight.

This type of tame surrender of the series without resistance is not akin to the Sri Lankan sides of the recent past especially after 1995 till the last World Cup in 2015 when Mahela Jayawardene and Kumar Sangakkara made their last ODI appearances against South Africa at Sydney. It was from here that the gradual decline of Sri Lanka’s middle order began and started to disintegrate and reach the stage to what it is today.

Since the 2015 World Cup, Sri Lanka has played in 12 bilateral ODI series and won only two of them against West Indies and Ireland – two teams hardly worth talking about. It is to such low depths has the once proud Lankan batting line-up and performances slumped.

To be fair by the bowlers the batsmen have been guilty of not putting up enough runs on the board for them to defend.

Why Sri Lanka finds themselves unable to produce batsmen of quality as in the past is a mystery. We boast of one of the best nurseries in school cricket but yet at international level there seems to be a wide gap between us and other top cricketing nations.

Take the case of the third and final ODI at Visakhapatnam where Sri Lanka inserted first by India were in a very good position to post a total beyond 300 plus and put themselves in line for an elusive maiden ODI series win over the hosts. But from a position of strength at 160-2 at the start of the 27th over the Lankan batting simply crumbled without a fight to be dismissed for 215 in 45 overs – losing their last eight wickets for a mere 55 runs in 18 overs. It was not that the pitch suddenly started to play tricks on the batsmen nor was the Indian spinners unexpectedly become unplayable, but it was poor shot selection that led to this crazy rout. This has now become a common pattern in the Lankan batting and unless a solution is sought to stop this type of hara-kiri batting the ODI side is certainly heading for disaster.

There is so much talk of the work ethics put in by the players and the support staff in preparation for the matches, but if all that hard work cannot be produced in the middle it is of no avail. What ails the batsmen from reciprocating what they do at practice in the middle is what needs to be addressed and addressed very quickly. This carnival has been going on for too long and the buck must stop at some point if not we will find ourselves falling deep into a mire from which we will find it extremely difficult to dig ourselves out.

The fact that India were able to beat Sri Lanka so easily even without their run-scoring captain Virat Kohli who was given a rest from international cricket speaks highly of the bench strength the hosts have. It is something that we Sri Lankans must also try to emulate. India of course has been successful because of the IPL which has enabled them to unearth unhidden talent and because of the vast resources available to them considering the size of the country (50 times bigger) and the population of the country (one billion people more) than Sri Lanka.

As in the first match of the Test series (Kolkata), Sri Lanka found a track that suited their fast-medium bowlers in the first ODI played in the hilly mountains of Dharamsala and they managed to bundle out the hosts for a mere 112 runs and coast home by seven wickets. But at Mohali and Visakhapatnam on flat pitches the bowlers were found wanting – lacking in pace and the absence of any movement made easy pickings for the Indian batsmen.

Rohit Sharma in his first stint as captain of India led the recovery for his team with a stunning double century that was followed by another masterful batting display by his opening partner Shikhar Dhawan in the third ODI that saw them seal the series quite easily.

The only positive note from Sri Lanka’s view point was the form of former captain Upul Tharanga who completed 1000 ODI runs in the calendar year during his innings of 95 to join Kohli and Sharma as the only batsmen to do so for 2017. Despite the ups and downs of his captaincy Tharanga managed to maintain consistent form throughout the year which none of his team mates could replicate.

Sri Lanka thus finish their ODI run for 2017 on a rather solemn note - 5 wins from 29 matches with 23 defeats and one no-result with a success rate of just 17.85 which is the lowest achieved by any ODI playing nation for the year that includes countries like Afghanistan, Hong Kong, Ireland, Papua New Guinea, Scotland and UAE. India on the other hand finished with 21 wins (the highest for the year) from the same number of matches with 7 losses (1 no-result). 

Shikhar Dhawan and Angelo Mathews


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