A move Sri Lanka may rue | Daily News

A move Sri Lanka may rue

Wins by the Sri Lanka cricket team in the one-day format have today become so few and far between that any win is looked forward to with eager and anticipation that with it the side would come out of the rut it has fallen into. Two back to back defeats in the ongoing Bangladesh one-day Tri-series was not the ideal start for the New Year for Sri Lanka who had gone through a rather lean period in 2017 losing 23 of the 29 ODIs played. However with their backs against the wall and facing an early exit after the two defeats, Sri Lanka had a must win game against Zimbabwe on Sunday to stay in the tournament.

They came out with all guns blazing to beat Zimbabwe and keep their chances of qualifying for the final alive. However the manner in which they got about winning the match was far from convincing. Having restricted Zimbabwe to a total of 198, Sri Lanka were well on course to knock the runs off inside 40 overs and earn a bonus point as well with the win and thus put themselves in a position to qualify for the final. But from a position of strength at 103-1 in the 22nd over Sri Lanka stumbled to 117-4 in the 26th in what has now become an all too familiar middle order collapse. They lost the wickets of two set batsmen Kusal Perera and Kusal Mendis who had put on 70 for the second wicket, and Niroshan Dickwella for 14 runs within the space of 22 balls.

At this point if Sri Lanka had played their cards right they could have still grabbed that extra bonus point and at the same time pushed their net run rate to the plus mark had they sent the inform Thisara Perera ahead of Asela Gunaratne to join the captain Dinesh Chandimal. Gunaratne coming at this stage was a very bad tactical move by the team management. He was totally out of touch and wasted 21 balls for 9 runs and during his period at the wicket Sri Lanka managed only 28 runs off 55 balls. If Sri Lanka fails to qualify for the final they would rue that move. As it was, Thisara Perera’s arrival at the wicket saw Sri Lanka knock off the required runs of 57 in 10.1 overs. The question that begs to be answered is what role was Gunaratne playing – was he played as a batsman or an all-rounder? He bowled just one over for four runs.

BOYAGODA PROVES A POINT TO TOUR MANAGEMENT

Sri Lanka’s exit from the ongoing ICC Under 19 Cricket World Cup Super League in New Zealand could easily be put down to bungling team compositions that saw them lose to Afghanistan and Pakistan and being demoted to play in the Plate Championships for places ninth and below with countries like Kenya, Canada, Papua New Guinea, Namibia, Ireland, West Indies and Zimbabwe. Sri Lanka had only one win in the group matches where they got their combination right and beat Ireland by seven wickets, but after that for no apparent reason they dropped their key opener Hasitha Boyagoda from the next two games against Afghanistan and Pakistan and played an extra fast bowler instead and paid the penalty. Boyagoda was Sri Lanka’s match winner against the eventual winners Afghanistan in the Under 19 Asia Cup scoring a brilliant half century but in the U19 World Cup practice match against New Zealand he was sent to bat at number 8 and yet made a half century. However his failure to score runs against Ireland saw him being dropped for the next two matches which was crucial to Sri Lanka’s chances of playing in the Super League. Sri Lanka played an unchanged side against Afghanistan and Pakistan - two teams they met in the U19 Asia Cup, and lost to them both. The team combination for these two games was to say the least appalling. It seemed that Sri Lanka had not learnt their lessons from the U19 Asia Cup. Against Pakistan who had a surfeit of left-hand batsmen in their line-up they failed to play an off-spinner who could spin the ball away from the bat. Boyagoda was one of three openers selected for the U19 World Cup the other two being Dananjaya Lakshan and Santosh Gunathilaka. But in the U19 World Cup, they promoted Nipun Dananjaya who had never opened for his school as opener against Afghanistan and Pakistan and the results were disastrous. He failed to get into double figures in any of the matches. To prove a point to the tour management (that comprises coach Roy Dias, manager Mahinda Halangoda, fast bowling coach Chaminda Vaas, fielding coach Upul Chandana and selector on tour Graeme Labrooy) Boyagoda who was recalled to the team for the Plate quarterfinal match against Kenya yesterday hit a staggering 191 off 152 balls to record the highest ever Under 19 ODI score.

Then there was the case of all-rounder Jehan Daniel who bats regularly at no. 6 or 7 being pushed up the order to no. 4. What the team management failed to understand is that an important event such as the U19 World Cup is not the place to experiment with positions. The players should have been told what their roles and positions are very much prior to the event which in this case was sadly lacking. Further, the individuals who were in a better position to help decide the team compositions were the junior selectors who had followed the players’ right from the initial stages, and should have gone on the tour as one of the tour selectors. Where Sri Lanka erred was when Sri Lanka Cricket decided to shift the balance of power of under 19 selections from the junior selection committee to the senior selection committee. The senior selection committee has hardly any time to follow the under 19 cricketers and therefore were not in any position to take decisions concerning team combinations. In that aspect it is hard to understand why SLC decided to send a member of the senior selection committee to accompany the Under 19 team to the World Cup rather than a junior selector who could have given more inputs into team combinations.

By such thoughtless thinking the SLC has let slip another golden opportunity of winning a junior cricket World Cup. The nearest Sri Lanka has come to winning one was in 2000 when they finished runner-up to India when it was hosted in Colombo and reached the semi-finals on two other occasions in 2010 and 2016.


 

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