Wednesday, 12 June 2013

Move up, or move over.

Win and move forward. Lose and get out of the way to make way for the other teams. The equation is simple for Sri Lanka. Every game from here needs to be a win. One can argue there is an outside chance even if we lose to England, and beat Australia, and England lose to New Zealand, and by some black magic our Net-Run-Rate turns out to be better than England's, that we can still stay. But trust me, if we lose to England, we are as good as out.

And all this is because Sri Lanka lost that opening game against New Zealand. And they lost big. It may have seemed a lot closer than the points table suggests, but according to the NRR, which is calculated for SL with 50 overs and New Zealand with 41 overs, the loss seems much bigger, because once you get all out, your run rate is your total number of runs divided by the total number of overs. And that's what cost Sri Lanka.

Sri Lanka didn't lose because of bad bowling, or  great batting by New Zealand. Not even the horrid umpiring. For one, Sri Lanka already wasted their review. Above that, Sri Lanka only posted a target of 139. With 7 specialist batsmen, excluding Thisara Perera. 6 of them didn't even bowl. And Angelo Mathews, being the captain, and being the so called "Pure All Rounder" in the team, did not even have the courage to run in and bowl a single ball.

You play 7 batsmen, you expect them to score you at least 200 runs. Which is nothing if you think about it. Less than 30 runs each. Which is much less than their career averages, to begin with. Instead, Sangakkara managed more than half the team's total, and the other six fell apart like a pack of cards. The umpires cannot be blamed for the loss at all. If you wake up at 8.50, to go to a meeting that starts at 9, and your driver somehow pulls you through the traffic and ends up at the meeting at 9.03 because he had to wait at a colour light for 4 minutes, it's not the light's fault or the driver's that you got late. It's your fault! If you set a target of only 139, no matter what happens in the second innings, if you lose, it's your batsmen's fault. Specially if you have 7 of them.

But Sri Lanka fought. And showed that their bowling isn't as weak as it looks. And they will need to fight again tomorrow at The Oval. And the team composition will be key.

By the look of how this tournament has gone, Sri Lanka desperately need to play two spinners. Every other team is exploiting the conditions with spin, and we are the one team left wondering whether the idea of playing two spinners is smart. To think, about 6 years ago, we were the team that always bowled at least 20 overs of spin in any oneday game we played, anywhere.

The choices are Jeewan and Herath, Jeewan and Sachithra or Herath and Sachithra. Ideally, the two best spinners must play, and to make way for both, either Shaminda Eranga or Lahiru Thirimanne will have to sit out. In my opinion, Eranga should sit out either way. Even if Sri Lanka don't play two spinners, Kulasekara must come in to the team in place of him. He has been the most consistent Sri Lankan ODI paceman in recent times, and rather oddly, one of Sri Lanka's best batsmen in run chases as well.

Then the question is, do we drop both Thirimanne and Eranga, and play 4 front line bowlers with the aid of Mathews, Thisara and Dilshan to cover for the other 10. I say we do. Yes, we played 7 batsmen and we only posted 139 and the last thing we need to be doing is dropping another batsman, but I say, if you can't win a game with 6 batsmen, namely Kusal, Dilshan, Sanga, Mahela, Chandi and Mathews, I say having Thirimanne in there makes no difference. Just like we saw in Cardiff.

Ideally, I'd like to see both Thiri and Eranga sitting out and Kula and Sachithra in the team on the field tomorrow, but if I was a selector for the Sri Lankan National Cricket Team, I might as well be Chuck Norris. But it is my opinion and to me, this is our best combination I see which would win us tomorrow's game.

But defeating England will be a tough ask. Apart from India, England are the only side to have at least looked like they are playing to win a tournament. Add to it the fact that they'll play in front of a full house home crowd. And on top of that, Anderson, Broad and Bresnan offer a stiff challenge with the new ball and the old, let alone Morgan, Butler and the inform Ian Bell with the bat. Jonathan Trott also never seems to fail too often against Sri Lanka. It seems as though odds are only getting worse for Sri Lanka. But, don't count them out just yet.

He's never had a bad run in England,
and Mahela would be more than determined to keep his track record in check.
Mahela Jayawardane's due a few runs. And vs England in England is even better than vs India at SSC for him. 5 centuries to 4. Malinga's picked up his rhythm. So has Sanga. Chandimal had an off day, but he doesn't have many. And either Kusal or Dilshan is bound to fire at the top, if not both. Kula and Herath are ever so reliable. And the Josephian Mafia promises not to disappoint too often. This is still well within Sri Lanka's reach, and if they are going to do it, England are so far the team to beat in this group.

I can't remember the last time Sri Lanka won a tournament after being back to the wall. Sri Lanka have 2 games left, if they win those, they'll have 2 more. If they win those 2 as well, they will be champions. Sounds simple, but the chances are we'll lose tomorrow and it will all be over.

So, here's to me being proven wrong.

Catch you after the game.


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