2017 – Dismal year for Sri Lanka ODI cricket | Daily News


2017 – Dismal year for Sri Lanka ODI cricket

Five wins and 23 defeats from 29 One-Day International (ODI) matches just about sums up what a dreadful year it has been for Sri Lanka cricket. To find a parallel to such a disastrous international cricket season one has to roll back the years to 1987 when Sri Lanka played a total of 10 ODIs and lost all of them. That was the year they failed to win a single match in a Cricket World Cup. Sri Lanka went through six matches against Pakistan, West Indies and England meeting each country twice in the group stages and were beaten in all of them. There have been other worse years prior to and after that but none as bad as 1987. Those years one might say Sri Lanka were still finding their feet on the world stage and can be excused for their shoddy performance. At the time there were only eight nations playing ODI cricket – Australia, England, India, New Zealand, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, West Indies and Zimbabwe compared to today where there are 16.

The only two bright sparks for 2017 was Sri Lanka ending their dismal run of 12 consecutive ODI defeats with an eight-wicket win over India in the first ODI at Dharamsala and former captain Upul Tharanga becoming the third batsmen for the calendar year to reach the 1000-run mark. Despite a shaky year for him where he was twice suspended as captain for slow over rate and eventually the ODI leadership taken away from him and handed to all-rounder Thisara Perera when he (Tharanga) had reservations of travelling to Lahore for the third T20 international against Pakistan, the left-hander who is the most capped ODI player in the present squad with 218 matches did not let such off field matters deter him but continued to pile on the runs for his country and become his country’s most successful batsmen for the year.

At the other end of the stick was the troubled year that Angelo Mathews went through. He was earmarked as a long term captain and everyone was looking forward to seeing him lead the country to the 2019 World Cup. But things didn’t pan out as expected.

The crunch started with the resignation of head coach Graham Ford who was contracted till the 2019 World Cup but circumstances led him to quit his post well ahead of time. It is no open secret to say that Ford and Mathews had a good relationship going as captain and coach and when the former decided to move out Mathews’ confidence as captain took an unexpected body blow. The home ODI series defeat to Zimbabwe (the first suffered by Sri Lanka against them) was the last straw for Mathews who threw in the towel and resigned from the captaincy across all formats.

This sudden move by Mathews caught Sri Lanka Cricket unawares and had them struggling to find suitable successors to lead the team in the three formats. How big an impact it had on the leadership can be gauged by the fact that the ODI side for the year was captained by no less than five players – Mathews, Tharanga, Chamara Kapugedera, Lasith Malinga and finally Thisara Perera the present captain.

While this musical chairs was going on with the captaincy Sri Lanka in the mean time was being pounded mercilessly by South Africa, India and Pakistan suffering 5-0 humiliations against each nation. Interference in selections and selection bungles coupled with the unfitness of players contributed largely to the substandard performances on the field especially the fielding and catching which to say the least was appalling. Sri Lanka was once a proud nation who could boast as being one of the best fielding sides in the world but were now putting up a performance as a team of novices.

With things going from bad to worse it took a while for the hierarchy of Sri Lanka Cricket to realize that the path they were treading on was the wrong one and if they were to successfully serve another term in office drastic changes and moves needed to be made to address the situation at hand.

With a new selection committee under former Sri Lanka fast bowler Graeme Labrooy coming into place in September things have gradually started to fall into place. The players unlike before have been given the confidence that they won’t be dropped after a match or two but given a decent run of two to three series before their performances are assessed. With that confidence behind them the team has now started to show some positive results that led to the chief selector making the remark: “From the Indian tour in Sri Lanka and then the Pakistan tour we see light at the end of the tunnel, there is an improvement but still to decide. If you take a comparison with the Pakistan and Indian ODIs our guys played more competitive and positive cricket. Although we didn’t come on top in both series we performed better. The side looks that they believe in themselves, they think that they can win and beat the best side in the world. They got that belief and play more positive cricket. In the Pakistan series they were too much on the back foot all the time.”

With another former Sri Lanka cricketer Chandika Hathurusingha taking over Ford’s position as head coach there is an air of expectancy that things will finally fall into place and Sri Lanka will be back to winning ways. Let’s keep our fingers crossed.

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