Thursday, 12 February 2015

Why Do We Fall?

ICC Cricket World Cup, Australia & New Zealand, 2015

"Batman" is perhaps the most successful superhero movie franchise. Although Superman is probably the ultimate superhero, who as explained in Kill Bill; doesn't need an alter-ego to turn in to a superhero, and although X-Men may have the longest list of movies made about them, Christopher Nolan's Batman is miles and miles ahead of any other superhero movie franchise in the sense that it incorporates all the great aspects of a good movie; a great script, brilliant acting and most of all astounding cinematography. And "Why do we fall, Bruce?" is perhaps the most significant line in what is perhaps the best superhero trilogy movie series that will ever transpire upon us. 

In more than one way, Sri Lanka cricket has taken a fall in the months past. Apart from a two scrappy ODI wins against New Zealand, two very gritty test innings from Dimuth Karunaratne and Kumar Sangakkara, and a home drubbing of a depleted England side carrying Alistaire Cook's dead weight, Sri Lanka cricket hasn't had much to cheer about in the bygone months since November. Malinga's injury, Sachithra's action scandal and the lack of experience in the rest of the bowling attack bar Herath, is perhaps Sri Lanka's biggest concern. Chandimal's lack of form, Dimuth's questionable inclusion, Jeewan and Thisara's confused roles as all rounders have also added to Sri Lanka's misery, and if not for Thirimanne clicking as an opener, Sri Lanka's batting would also have been in disarray not just at the bottom of the order, but also at the top. Sri Lanka are still on paper one of the top four contenders for this world cup, but on recent performances, they might not even be rated in the top 8. 

But it is a fall that should not surprise us. Sri Lanka's three biggest match winners are at the twilight of their careers, and as every great era ends, it is bound stir up chaos. Between Sanga and Mahela, they have captained 4 world cup finals. Exclude Sanath Jayasuriya from the list, and Sanga, Mahela and Dilshan would top every One Day batting record in Sri Lanka from most runs to most hundreds. They are as of 2014, World Champions. The three of them have featured in 5 world cup finals for Sri Lanka. As far as franchises go, they are the Batman Trilogy of Sri Lanka Cricket. And when you are so successful as a franchise, as you come to your end, people tend to expect so much more. For me, Batman The Dark Knight Rises, was the poorest of the three batman movies. Yet, it was one of the best superhero movies I've ever watched. But for the Batmas series, since it is preceded by two legendary movies; "Batman Begins" and "The Dark Knight", "The Dark Knight Rises" was simply just not good enough. Specially, because it was the final installment of the series. Specially because, after that, it would be no more. Mahela, Sanga and Dilshan and Sri Lanka cricket face the same conundrum. Just like Christopher Nolan, they have simply out done themselves, and there is no ultimate finale they could ever come up with, that could completely satisfy the masses. 

In their 8th and last cricket world cup together,
Sanga, Mahela and Dilshan find themselves in need of a farewell script
that outdoes their illustrious careers.

Sri Lanka find them selves facing the two best sides of the world cup in their group stages, Australia and New Zealand. In England, they face the next best suited attack for the conditions. Bangladesh have caused an upset in every other world cup; 1999 not 2003. 2007 not 2011. The pattern suggests 2015 is their year to pull a rabbit out of the hat. Afghanistan are perhaps the most dangerous associate side in terms of attitude, and Scotland as West Indies found out the hard way, are not push overs either. Given the form of the players, given the group, and given the conditions, Sri Lanka's group stage fixture card is a formula for disaster. Therefore, like the fate of a franchise depends on a spin-off that saves a dying series, Sri Lanka's fate largely depends on not how Dilshan, Mahela and Sanga will perform, but on how much Angelo Mathews can squeeze out of the likes of Thirimanne, Jeewan, Thisara, Kulasekara and Herath. The fact of the matter is, if the big three fail, 9 out of 10 times Sri Lanka will lose. But even if the big three perform, without significant support from the rest, Sri Lanka will not go too far. Players will win you matches, but it is teams that win tournaments.

Therefore after a rather inauspicious start to what seems to be an extremely tough tournament, Sri Lanka will need to put the losses to South Africa and Zimbabwe behind them and learn what they can learn. If Chandimal is under-performing, Dimuth has proved he's a capable number 4, with Mahela and Angelo shifting down one spot each. Death bowling is the biggest concern, and if Malinga is injured, Sri Lanka need to figure out which one of Angelo, Thisara or Lakmal should partner Kulasekara at the end. Or maybe roll the dice with Chameera. And Jeewan needs to bat like the 30 year old, mature, talented batsman that he is. His bowling is a bonus. Jeewan Mendis is a batsman. He should remind himself to bat like one. 

"Why do we fall?"
"So that we can learn to pick ourselves up".

May it be in this tournament it self, or in the times that follow after the retirement of three of Sri Lanka's greatest cricketers of all time, it is high time that Sri Lanka learn to pick them selves up before it is too late.


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