Wednesday, 12 December 2012

A bird's eye through a bullet hole

Sri Lanka vs Australia - 1st Test - Hobart - December 14th to 18th


So, my first "Match Preview". All those who came here expecting an in depth analysis of the build up to this game and how it is going to unfold, please kindly navigate to ESPNcricinfo and read the article by Brydon Coverdale. This is not going to fall in to that category. Oh no. No no no. I am NOT doing a statistical analysis of a build up to the first test. Not going to happen. If you need to hear what I think about how Sri Lanka will again put up an above average show against a below average Australia (by their standards), do continue reading. This is how I see previews, like an eagle staring in to distance through a bullet hole. Expecting to see miles and miles of meadow, yet blinded and obstructed by the tiny hole he is forced in to looking through.

After 3 weeks of intense test cricket, we have 4 host nations unable to win a test series in their own backyards. Bangladesh faltered against a not-so-good Tino Best, not even at his best. But they are still Bangladesh. What else can you expect from them? A giant killing 3-2 ODI win against the world T20 champions West Indies? Oooops! Sri Lanka continued to show that the P.Sara Oval is a result oriented wicket, only the result being almost always going against them, letting New Zealand draw the series out of no where. Australia made a boxing match out of a series they should have won 2-1 ahead of the boxing day test, delivering all the blows early in the series and getting knocked out by the first proper punch laid on them. India were India. Talked the talk, but couldn't walk it. Even if they win the 4th test in Nagpur, which starts in a matter of minutes from now, they would still only be drawing the series, and not winning it 4-0, as they had claimed they would. And after what seemed like a dream few weeks for visiting teams, now we have New Zealand touring South Africa and Australia hosting Sri Lanka. How rather disappointing.

Don't get me wrong. Sri Lanka look SOLID on paper. Dilshan, Mahela, Sanga and Samare all have the talent, the history and the quality to make it big. Mathews, Prasanna and Dimuth, who Mathews hinted would play, are all capable support players to the big guns. Mathews might even make it to big guns list, on his day. Herath is the best left arm spinner the test circuit right now and Kulasekara, Eranga and Wele will be a handful on a green top at the Bellerive with overcast conditions predicted for the first four days.

The last time Sri Lanka played on a renowned "Green Top",
they scripted one of the most glorious wins in their test history.

It is just a question of character. We are up against a team that thrives on mental strength. If there is anything that you need to win a test in Australia, it's toughness. And if there is one thing that this team lacks, apart from being one of the weakest pace attacks in the world, it is the mental toughness. It is what sets Sri Lanka back, what makes them crumble in finals, and lose the last test of a series. The talent and the ability is surely there, but the toughness hasn't been inculcated. Like a really well tuned electric guitar, without an amp. It has the ability to make the most beautiful solo, but the sound it makes has just too little volume on it's own to really move anyone who is listening to it.

Sri Lanka will put up a fight though. They sure will. Sanga has started with the mind games, by saying it will be favourable for Sri Lanka if a green top is prepared. Although it may seem correct, looking at how all three of our pacemen rely on swing and seam to get wickets rather than pace and bounce, it is a very witty comment. It is almost as witty as saying "Mate, we are going to beat you at your own game, and we are going to make it look very pretty too." Mathews has come out and given away the team composition, less than 24 hours to the start. It is something Steve Waugh used to do as captain. Announce the team on the eve of the match. It shows confidence. Character. The very things Australians don't expect from visiting sides from the subcontinent.

So don't be surprised if Sri Lanka catch Australia off guard tomorrow. They might just win the toss and rip out Australia's four openers and if they are lucky even send back one of Hussey or Clarke. Or they might be sent in to bat, and Dimuth and Dilshan would bat out till lunch, punching gloves and heading to the pavilion at 102/0. Dimuth would score one of those knocks where the opposition is frustrated by the performance of a fellow who they haven't even heard of, and making the fans go bonkers trying to relate to each other about the new guy who notched up a 50, whose name the Channel 9 commentators can't even pronounce properly. Or they could well be 65/5 by lunch, Starc 3 and 1 each for Hilfenhaus and Watson. While the latter seems the most likely, don't consider it a miracle if one of the first two predictions come to be true, for Sri Lanka have enough and more ability to do so, and us die hard fans will expect nothing less than that from them.

Someone snap me out of this dream!

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