The bitter sweet memories of Lahore | Daily News


The bitter sweet memories of Lahore

The Gaddafi Stadium in Lahore holds bitter sweet memories for Sri Lanka and its cricketers for it is at this venue that they won their biggest prize in world cricket the Cricket World Cup in 1996, suffered the harrowing experience of the national team bus being attacked by a dozen gunmen in 2009, and on Monday saw a young and inexperienced side sans the top guns bring the number one ranked Twenty20 international side Pakistan to their knees with comprehensive back to back wins that gave them a winning 2-0 lead in the ongoing three-match series - the first time they have beaten their opponents in a series in this format in a bilateral contest.

The victory in the T20I series came against all odds. When the team left for Karachi no one in their wildest of dreams would have put their money on Sri Lanka beating Pakistan on their own soil. But yet this young and inexperienced bunch of cricketers under a new T20I captain Dasun Shanaka have turned the form book upside down by beating a full strength Pakistan side with a performance on the field that ranks among the best.

With the World T20 tournament 12 months away, this is an ideal platform for Sri Lanka to launch their campaign towards winning another T20 World title to add to the one they won in 2014 in Bangladesh.

What this current T20I series has revealed is that Sri Lanka has the talent to start building an all-round side leading towards the World T20. It was a blessing in disguise that some of the experienced players made themselves unavailable for this tour on the grounds of security concerns which prompted the national selectors to pick the next best lot that were available to them, and what a performance this younger lot has come up with. Talent which would not have surfaced came to the limelight and have given the selection committee headed by former Sri Lanka fast bowler Ashantha de Mel a wide gamut of players to pick and choose in the next 12 months during which time Sri Lanka will be involved in a total of 14 T20 internationals, and by which time there could be a well settled side prepared to take on the world.

There is a famous saying of Aristotle that ‘one swallow does not make a summer’. So while basking in the glory of this T20I series win over Pakistan one must keep in mind not to get too carried away by this success. A team is judged on its performance at a consistent level, and in this aspect Sri Lanka has a long way to go.

Sri Lanka’s biggest challenges lie ahead. They confront Australia in Australia when they make a tour there towards the end of this month to play a series of three T20 internationals in Adelaide, Brisbane and Melbourne and then front up with India in India in January for another three-match T20I series. These are two countries that have produced an abundance of T20 international cricketers with their Big Bash and IPL tournaments and how Sri Lanka tackles them in their own backyard will provide the yardstick to how good this team is in this format.

Having been at the deep end for such a long time with a series of defeats that has pushed the country to eighth position in the ICC T20I rankings even below Afghanistan, and placed them in a position they have never experienced before – having to qualify for a place at the next World T20, Sri Lanka are slowly but surely finding their feet.

It began with the three-match T20I series at home against New Zealand in September where they gave the visitors a good run in the first two matches despite suffering defeats and eventually broke the losing trend by winning the third and final match largely on the back of skipper Lasith Malinga’s extraordinary bowling skills where he took five wickets for six runs including four wickets in four balls.

For that series the De Mel led national selection committee discarded some of the established and experienced players and introduced several youngsters – a bold move which is yielding results in Pakistan.

At the end of the series against New Zealand Malinga said, “If you take the results of the first two matches they are losses. But how we played the game is the real question. We managed to drag the game to the last over in both matches. Everyone knows that there are a number of players in this team with less T20 experience. Playing with such inexperienced players, especially against a seasoned set of players like New Zealand I am happy because we matched them equally.

“I think we can create a good T20 team by 2020. No matter who is captain what I want to do is to bring the good players and show them the way forward. I have no more desires or big targets to achieve. The more you win, the more you want to win. We'll have to create that habit among the younger players. There are about 17 T20I matches to be played in the next one year before the T20I World Cup. As we go along, these players will learn.”

Surely they are learning and learning very fast.

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