Saturday, 6 July 2013

With the odds, against expectation

Stephen Fry once said in an interview on the 2005 Ashes; "When we beat Australia, it is a joy you possibly cannot transmit or communicate to others. It's so intense, it radiates your whole being, and you skip on air for weeks." Now, I am neither English, nor have I experienced beating Australia in Test as a Sri Lankan. A vague memory of a victory against the Aussies in 1999 in Kandy lasts in the back of my mind, which I remember thanks to a youtube video, but it's nothing that makes me skip on air.

The closest I could get to that feeling, the feeling of "Someone please help us beat Australia" and actually winning it, is when Sri Lanka win against India. Sri Lanka have a record of something like 320 to 4 against India in the past four years or so and we just cannot seem to find a way to beat them. And when we do in the fashion we did the last game, it really does radiate in our being, and make us skip on air for weeks. Now, this is no comparison to England winning the Ashes in '05, but it is somewhat a relatable feeling. Unlike the Ashes though, Sri Lanka haven't really won anything substantial yet. They need to win at least one out of two games to qualify to the final, but in contrast to the other two teams, Sri Lanka have their destiny under their control.

With the highest NRR of the three teams, Sri Lanka technically only have to win once. With two games in hand, the rather obvious thing to say would be that Sri Lanka have the final in the bag. Well, that is if Sri Lanka are a consistently performing, focused and well managed set of individuals. Sadly, we are quite the opposite. The last win being so huge and convincing only makes you wonder if its a fluke and makes you think twice about any chances of qualifying. The easiest way to do it though, is to beat West Indies tomorrow, and seal the deal.

Port of Spain offers more pace and swing than Kingston, by the looks of the bowling figures, but these could be varied by conditions controlled by weather gods. Sri Lanka might rethink playing two front line spinners, but are unlikely to change the winning combination form four days ago. The opening combination seems to be working better than expected and will remain unchanged, but anyone expecting Upul Tharanga to perform twice in two games might as well be still believing in Santa Claus. Sri Lanka's earmarked pair for the future, Chandimal and Thirimanne have been found wanted in the middle order, and for one of them to fire in tomorrow's game would be ideal for Sri Lankas winning prospects.

The way the tournament has progressed, it seems as though
the performance of Mahela and Gayle will dictate the progress of either team.
I've been saying that Kusal is due a knock for ever since the Champions Trophy started and like a university fees receipt of a middle class student at the start of the 3rd week of lectures, it is still due. Sangakkara and Mathews have been at their solitary average good, accumulating 20s and 40s and occupying the crease, not too less to blame a loss, nor enough to force a win. The bowling has been stable, no one seems to be out of sorts, but neither has anyone peaked as a top performer, but stable. Sri Lanka will back themselves to defend anything over 240 and to restrict the Windies to under 260 if they bat first. Whether they would get 240 if they bat first, or chase down the 260 they concede, is the question that Mathews will need to prepare his answers for, for the press conference after the game.

Apart from their own woes, Sri Lanka would have to deal with an upbeat Tino Best who has made himself a presence in the ODI team, an in form Kemar Roach who consistently throws in solid pacey spells, a confident Sunil Narine, at least against Sri Lanka with a back of a four-for, and a hard working Darren Sammy who's been under 4.5 an over all tournament. In terms of batting though, West Indies are at sort of a Pakistanesque stage. Intimidating at times, but generally rather ordinary. Every one from 1 to 8 can come out and make a century at less than run a ball, but when or where they will deliver that century is as consistent as a roulette table, and the whole line up is as equally reassuring as the table it self. [Insert match fixing joke here].

Either way, the odds are quite unusually, stacked in favour of the Lankans this time around. A win against the Windies will put them through to the final quite safely, and even a loss would mean that they have yet another chance against India to win and delay their flight back home by a further 2 days. But fittingly, it would seem that Sri Lanka should lose to West Indies tomorrow, and battle India in the last game of the group stage with a Net Run Rate in mind to make it to the finals, the way they have made familiar to them selves to finish the group stages, as they have done against India in the 2010 World T20, against Australia at the CB series in 2012 and again at the Champions Trophy in 2013. Sri Lanka would also expect to win both against the Run Rate and the game, as they did in the three previous occasions. But fittingly, Sri Lanka should go on to lose this; finally losing to the NRR rule, getting knocked out of a tri-series since Ruchira Perera retired, and also letting India through to another final, a habit they've picked up in reverse since having directly or indirectly knocked India out in the 2007 WC, 2012 CB and 2012 Asia Cup.

Off late, we've come to support Sri Lanka like we would support a second division soccer team, in a strange sort of way. Like we would support Queens Park Rangers, or Norwich City. We really don't mind when we lose, because we expect us to. But when we win, we are SO happy, infinitely happier than any Arsenal supporter or Chelsea supporter could EVER be.

Tomorrow will be no different. I won't expect Sri Lanka to win, but if we do, expect the emotion to flow through to the next post.

Until the,


PS: The Norwich City quote also belongs to Stephen Fry. It would only be fitting for me to finish the post with one of his lines, just the way I started it.

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