Groups that formed within the team are no longer there- chief selector | Daily News
‘Dimuth has the knack of getting all the players together’:

Groups that formed within the team are no longer there- chief selector

The Sri Lankan team after their 3-0 sweep of the ODI series against Bangladesh.
The Sri Lankan team after their 3-0 sweep of the ODI series against Bangladesh.

Chairman of selectors Ashantha de Mel showered praise on the leadership qualities of Dimuth Karunaratne and said that as captain he has been able to get the team together as one unit and perform successfully.

There were eyebrows raised when the De Mel led four-member selection committee decided to appoint Karunaratne as captain for the 2019 World Cup in England. The left-handed opener had not appeared in an ODI since the last World Cup in 2015 and was more or less come to be regarded as a Test player.

However the manner in which he was able to inspire the team to win back to back Test matches in South Africa and win the series 2-0 made the selectors take a gamble on Karunaratne by appointing him captain for the 2019 World Cup.

After a slow beginning where there were factions created within the team Karunaratne has been able to rally all the players around him and create a healthy atmosphere that has resulted in Sri Lanka thrashing Bangladesh 3-0 in the three-match one-day series.

“I was expecting us to win. As long as we play good cricket and played to our ability man to man we were a better side compared to Bangladesh. It was not a surprise that we won but winning by such huge margins was a surprise. I thought that we would have closer games,” said De Mel.

“There were signs that they were coming together towards the latter part of the World Cup. I am happy for the players basically now they are more settled and they are playing more or less a positive kind of cricket which is good.”

Sri Lanka won the first ODI by 91 runs, the second by seven wickets and the third by 122 runs.

Talking of Karunaratne’s captaincy, De Mel said, “Dimuth has done very well. He has the knack to bring all the players together. His role at the top has been made easy because he has two attacking batsmen Avishka Fernando and Kusal Perera. He is leading the side well and his bowling changes are effective. He gets on with all the players. You can see that the groups that had formed inside the team are not there now. They are playing as a team and they are all together. They are more relaxed. He has created a better dressing room atmosphere.”

De Mel noted that the performance indicators show that if Sri Lanka didn’t lose more than one wicket in the first ten overs as it was during the Bangladesh series they were able to put up match winning totals.

“In the 30th over we are looking at not losing more than three wickets then you are on course. We did that in all three games. You can always catch up later if we have wickets in hand. It was not the case during the World Cup,” said De Mel.

“From the World Cup we saw that the middle order was not firing, there was no stability in the middle. It is something that came off in the Bangladesh series where all the middle order players were among the runs. What you need is a big score from one and two or three others scoring fifties. The batting more or less from 1-6 there is some stability and the back-up bowlers we tried out are putting in performances so that we have some sort of back up to the normal guys that we have.

“If your first five batters are playing well you can play Dasun Shanaka at six with another five bowlers. If they are not playing well we will need to include a sixth batsman. Then it becomes a little more unbalanced because you have to go with five bowlers and not very many back up bowlers,” explained De Mel.

“Now what we are doing is getting the batsmen also to bowl like Kusal Mendis, Lahiru Thirimanne and Dimuth and, Angelo (Mathews) on and off. We are keeping our options open in case they are needed.

“It all depends on where you play. In Sri Lanka you may be able to play five batsmen and an all-rounder, but if you go to England, Australia, New Zealand or South Africa you may need that extra sixth batsman.

“Because we were batting well in the Bangladesh series we did a small shift and it worked okay. Shanaka brings in a different dimension because he can score quickly and if he can bowl 5-6 overs its good. He brings a little more energy into the side so that option is there,” he said.

What the Bangladesh series has created is more competition for places in the ODI squad.

“We have about 25 good players. Apart from the 15 that played we have about 10 guys who are waiting to come into the side it’s a healthy sign. The fielding has also improved from the World Cup,” noted De Mel.

“What we need is to have a pool of about 20-25 players upto the next World Cup. These guys are the ones we should be looking at rather than do too many changes. From the 25 players who can’t play in the senior side we should play them in the ‘A’ side. If you look at the practice game we played against Bangladesh the players who played were quite good. That showed that there are quite a lot of back up players available.

“We have to give these players a little more confidence instead of just chopping and changing. If the talent is there we have to back them. Look at the Australian side Mitchell Starc and Josh Hazelwood can’t get into their Test side. When it comes to selection the selectors also have certain views and ideas, sometimes whatever we think people from outside don’t understand,” he said.

For former skipper Angelo Mathews the Bangladesh series gave him an opportunity to stamp his class finishing on top of the Sri Lankan batting with an aggregate of 187 and an average of 93.50. He hit two half-centuries in the three matches and it was good enough for him to win the Player of the Series award.

The other positive sign was the consistency shown by the two Kusal’s – Perera and Mendis in their batting. Avishka Fernando the ‘find’ of the World Cup had one good innings of 82, but he is such rare talent that with time we will be hearing more of him in the future.

What was pleasing was that when Lasith Malinga made his final bow in ODI cricket at the end of the first match of the series, there were others who put their hands up to deliver. The return of spinner Akila Dananjaya to international cricket and pick up wickets is a good sign for Sri Lanka. After being reported for a faulty bowling action Dananjaya underwent remedial changes to his bowling action. But the way he bowled the change seems to have done him a world of good.

With the World T20 taking place in October next year there will be a lot of emphasis laid on playing more T20I games over ODIs. The New Zealand series that is coming up next in Sri Lanka later this month has three T20Is but no ODIs. Even though there may not be many ODIs played in the near future Sri Lanka must keep this squad together till the next World Cup comes along in another four years. By then these players would have enough matches under their belts and the experience of playing in several pressure situations successfully. The difference between a good side and an ordinary one is the one that handles the pressures well.


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