Thursday, 27 June 2013

Back to square one

Maniya: Each and every time a new tournament starts after a concluded ICC tournament, it seems like getting back to square one for Sri Lanka. They are increasingly being reputed as the elder brothers of South Africa, as chokers at the wrong end of the tournament. However, a mere 5 days after the tournament, here we are back at international cricket. Against West Indies, and of course, the Indians. Taking a look at the composition of the team, the injury of Dilshan might be a blessing in disguise. For me, the real essence for the success of limited over cricket in Sri Lanka since 2007 has been Tillakerathna Dilshan. Surprised? Not Sanga, nor Mahela, but Dilshan. The numbers prove it. Dilly has scored 15 centuries since the 2007 World Cup, compared to 9 by Sanga, and 6 by Mahela, which includes one century for the Asian XI. More important is the pace at which Dilly carry out the innings that clearly provide a winning platform. Therefore we can safely say that Dilly has been the key man for Sri Lanka in the past few years, even though the presence of the stalwarts have helped.

Kumma: First things first. When Maniya gives you a number, you believe it. You don't think twice. He's always right with these numbers. And yes. In total agreement here when it comes to Dilshan. Dilly has been the driving force behind Sri Lanka's scattered success in the limited overs format since 2009. Ever since he stepped up as an opener, he has filled the void created by Jayasuriya and always been the charismatic work horse behind most victories. He also enjoys playing against the Indians, unlike most Sri Lankans of the recent past. Apart from that one time in Rajkot, I believe every time Dilly scored a century against India, Sri Lanka have gone on to win. The way he bats deceives us in to thinking he is such a selfless player playing for the team, when he is actually being as arrogant and mindless as Sehwag or Afridi. I mean, for a guy who plays a shot behind the keepers head, with his eyes closed, infront of his nose, I guess he's done well not to draw a fine line between mindless and selfless. He surely is going to be missed. 

Maniya: Getting back to the match, Kusal Janith Perera is under fire to perform after a disappointing CT13. The maximum number of overs he lasted in the tournament was 3. The aggressive stroke play seem to have resulted in his own downfall, however it is unlikely that he will change his natural instinct. Nor he should. He seem to be in the best flow when attacking the ball, and could be a boundary or two away from finding his form back. Upul Tharanga has been given a lucky break after the injury to Dilshan, and a good performance in the tournament will clearly pose a threat to Kusal's position in the team. However both openers will be under pressure as the A team openers Dimuth Karunarathna and Niroshan Dickwella has been performing well in the Windies tours, and even though not been selected to the Tri Nation series, chances are high in one of them earning a place in the South Africa series.  

For a man who's dubbed as the Next Sanath Jayasuriya,
Kusal has already shown the resemblance to the great man
 in terms of stroke play, aggression and sadly inconsistency as well. 
Kumma: I'm in a bit of a disagreement here about Kusal. He seems to be trying a bit too hard to play his "natural game" that it looks like he is forcing him self to attack more, when his natural game, from what I remember is a patient yet marauding sort of style where he respects the good ball and backs him self to hit the bad ball out of the park. At the moment he bats as if he thinks if his strike rate drops below 100 that he will be given out. To partner him is Upul Tharanga, who's been given the umpteenth time to shine at the helm. Tharanga is like a long running family business that keeps failing. Too much failure to have confidence in his performance, but too much time invested in him to just let go and move on. Let's just hope the confident Tharanga shows up this time, and not the "I'm playing for my place" one we saw down in Australia.

ManiyaYet, I feel that attacking is quite natural to Kusal, even though he can drop anchor like he did in Brisbane. Backing him to perform on his own way. Then comes the most important question for me. Is Chandimal and Thirimanne getting a fair chance spend quality time at the middle? Most of the time, the two have been thrown into the caution, whenever Sri Lanka needed to rebuild, and in fairness they have delivered. However having Thirimanne and Chandi at 1 down and 2 down seems unlikely, even though it seems the best option for the future. Yet, the management should be wise enough to enable the pair to obtain the same exposure Mahela and Sanga in their younger days. The more they play at the top of the innings, the better cricketers they will turn out to be. Chandi and Thiri seem to be the next duo produced by Sri Lanka, following Aravinda - Arjuna, Sanath - Kalu, Sanath - Marvan, Mahela - Sanga. They always come in pairs in Sri Lanka.  

Kumma: Plain and simply, I don't think Chandimal has what it takes to succeed on the long run at this level. He's probably one of the best in terms of talent base in the island, but when compared to a lot of youngsters around the world, he is pretty mediocre. Thirimanne, on the other hand, is the man to look out for. Unless Chandi changes his game both technically and mentally, Thirimanne's rise to the top would be a lone one. A fair decision would be to keep rotating numbers 3 and 4 between these two and Mahela/Sanga, but Sri Lanka's selection panel is as fair as Adolf Hitler's foreign policy, so we can forget about that. If only they let Maniya in. I dream of the day. 

The latest batting duo of Sri Lanka deserves more time at the wicket, even at the expense of Sanga and Mahela batting below their usual positions
Maniya: The batting of Angelo Matthews has not been so great in the recent past.  However time has come for him to step up, with the added burden of captaincy, as fans seems to have started questioning his form, and even his existence in the team for a certain extent. Therefore it is upto him to answer those critics wrong. He seems to be suffering the traditional all rounders problem, being stuck in the middle. He surely is categorized as a batting all rounder, yet seem to be under bowling himself, in crunch situations. 4 more slots left. Players fighting for these slots would be Jeevan Mendis, Dilhara Lokuhettige, Rangana Herath, Sachithra Senanayake, Lasith Malinga, Nuwan Kulasekara, Shaminda Eranga and Ajantha Mendis. However you could say that we could play 2 steamers and 2 spinners, with Mathews to fill up the 5th bowler spot, may be with some aid from Thiri. Thus the two seamers would be Malinga and Kulasekara. It would be quite harsh to leave out Rangana Herath, due to his excellent line and length, hence it would be a fight between Ajantha Mendis and Sachithra Senanayake. It was here in Windies that Mendis made a name for himself in the international arena, therefore would not be surprised if he is picked ahead of Sachi.  

Kumma: The biggest trick missed here would be the exclusion of Thisara Perera. Angelo better be thanking the heavens for his captaincy, because if not for the mic infront of his face at the press conference, Thisara would have kicked him so far down the pecking order that Angelo might even have to play a few games of Division III County to get him self back in contention. He's shown us he's got the mental game to handle a situation but whether he chooses to bring in that mental game, or let the game go mental is what we are left to kept pondering. Looking at the squad, I personally think Sri Lanka might play three seamers for starters and then move on to two spinners later on in the tournament. 

Maniya's  XI- Kusal, Tharanga, Thiri, Sanga, Chandi, Mahela, Angelo, Kule, Malinga, Herath, Mendis.
Kumma's XI - Same, except for Herath missing out to Eranga. 

Maniya: The main threat for Sri Lanka would be the likes of Gayle, Dwayne Bravo, Pollard and Narine. Out of the lot Narine would be rated as the most dangerous players, in their own conditions.

Kumma: Adding to Narine's magic, I would also take a note of how Ravi Rampaul has been bowling through out the year, and also the form of Sri Lanka's party crasher; Marlon Samuels. Let's hope most of us won't end up quoting Shane Warne at the end of the game. "F*** you, Marlon". Priceless, Warney.

Maniya: Gayle won't score much, nor will Pollard. But the likes of the Bravo brothers will. Narine will bag at least 3. Expecting a big one from Kusal early in the tournament. Regardless of their form, surely India can't win this one right? So backing Sri Lanka to win the match by 4 wickets or 42 runs.

Kumma: Agreed. One of the Bravos and Samuels to keep Sri Lanka in check, but banking Sri Lanka to win this one. As for the First Law of Maniya, when he gives you a number, you go with it. Win by 4 wickets or 42 runs it is.

Signing off for now,

Maniya and Kumma

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