Saturday, 8 June 2013

The Mental Game; a weakness or a strength?

India and England. The only teams so far that haven't looked as bad they sound on paper. That's the thing about this tournament.No one is a clear favourite. Well apart from South Africa. Who started as the best team on paper, until they lost the plot in the middle, as they always do. Not to mention being hampered with injury after injury. Steyn, Kallis, AB, Morkel. Even Greame Smith, although that probably was a blessing in disguise. Anyway, regardless of how other teams look on paper, Sri Lanka look the weakest. Yes, I've mentioned in my previous post that we've picked the strongest team possible. But just because you prepared for an exam like you never did before, doesn't necessarily mean that you will get better results than every one else.

Against New Zealand though, Sri Lanka face a similar opponent. Well picked side, yet weak on paper. But New Zealand have a decent side, going in to a big tournament, after a while. Not just 2 superstars and 9 passengers. They actually have a well bonded, contributing side. Yes, the league of Ross Taylor and Brendon McCullum are still a class apart from everyone else, but the likes of Kane Williamson, Tim Southee, BJ Watling, Martin Guptill, Kyle Mills and unfortunately missing Trent Boult, offer good substance. On top of that, even players like Nathan McCullum, Mitchell McCleneghan, Doug Bracewell and James Franklin have started to contribute to victories more often than not. The only New Zealand player who seems to be a passenger in this team seems to be Luke Ronchi, and he's an Australian.

But if you think about it, this is Sri Lanka's game. Sri Lanka plays a mental game. A game that is defined by momentum, dictated by confidence and rallied by morale. That's our strength, and as much as it is our strength, that's our weakness. It is the reason we keep losing to India. It is the reason we kept losing to Australia in the early 2000s. It is the reason that we have lost countless ICC finals. And it is the very reason we actually won that one time back in 1996.

Arjuna Ranatunga harnessed Sri Lanka's mental game in to an advantage. He took a team of average players and turned it in to a champion team. Every captain that followed him, apart from maybe Sanath Jayasuriya, for a while, has seen this quality of Sri Lanka cricket as a weakness. And that is why, every single one of them has failed to convert this team of champions, in to a champion team.

Arjuna Ranatunga made sure Sri Lanka's mental strength;
or the lack of it, was a reason for success
But that is our very advantage against New Zealand. They are a side we are confident of beating. May it be a superover, or a last minute rescue by Angelo Mathews, or a century by Sangakkara, in recent times, Sri Lanka have somehow or the other, found a way of beating New Zealand. Even that ONE time they lost, in South Africa in the last edition of the Champions Trophy, Nuwan Kulasekara almost pulled off a heist with the bat.

The point is, this is the one game Sri Lanka can win. And Sri Lanka should win it. But time and time again, Sri Lanka keeps to fail to accomplish what it SHOULD do.

Cardiff offered spin, play Jeewan and Sachithra, keep Eranga out. 7 batsmen, 4 Pacies, 1 leggie, 1 offie. Sounds good enough to me. Emphasis on "me". Let's see what the big boys think, and how it plays.

Catch you after the game, until then;


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