Sri Lanka compromise stability, fail to effectuate unpredictability
Sri Lanka's humiliating defeat to South Africa was driven by their tactics to tinker in the big games.
‘Don’t tinker with the winning combination’, it is one of the cardinal rules of cricket, it is also the one for which the Sri Lankan think tank has always had little regard for. So when Tharindu Kaushal was handed a debut, it was hardly a surprise. Angelo Mathews did his bit in building him up as the next ‘mystery spinner’ and even labeled him as a ‘duplicate Murli’. As it turned out, there was nothing mysterious about his bowling and ironically the off spinner’s debut would be remembered only by his batting ineptitude wherein he managed to play all around a straight delivery to hand a much grateful JP Duminy an unlikely hat-trick in international cricket.
The ‘opening’ gamble
Still, by all accounts Tharindu Kaushal was a risk worth taking, especially after a poor showing by Seekkuge Prasanna against Scotland and the continued struggles of Rangana Herath with his finger injury. However it came as a shock was when Kusal Perera walked in to open with Tillakaratne Dilshan, he replaced Lahiru Thirimanne who had scores of 139*(Eng), 52 (BD) and 65(NZ) in the tournament.
Sri Lanka turned a blind eye to the notion of seeing through the new ball and Perera was given the license to slog. He flashed, missed and finally edged one to get dismissed for 3 after facing 10 balls. A move that was meant to give impetus to the innings ended up putting the whole team on the back foot.
What made the move more perplexing was when Thirimanne walked in to bat at 2 down and looked like the only Sri Lankan batsman at ease with the conditions and the South African bowling. He was fluent in his knock of 41 and played some lovely strokes against the three South African quicks. One can’t help but wonder what difference this little cameo would have made at the top of the lineup, maybe it would have meant more time for Dilshan to settle and more room for Sangakkara to express himself.
We have seen it all before
As those who follow Sri Lankan Cricket closely would know, it is hardly the first time that the Sri Lankans have tried to wrong foot their opponents in a big match with a level of unpredictability be it in their team selection or in the tinkering of their batting line up.In fact they had made as many as four changes for the 2011 World Cup final against India by drafting in Perera, Randiv, Kulasekara and Kapugedera.
Even though the game ended up being a much more closely contested encounter, there was nothing noteworthy about the performance of the four picked to add to the aura of unpredictability in the team.
Overall, even the Sri Lankans would find it hard to argue that the better team won the quarter final. On paper South Africa were better than them in all departments and today for once the Proteas managed to live upto their billing. Sri Lanka tried too much too early, they tried to take the game by the scruff of the neck and failed drastically. A 9 wicket loss made it their biggest defeat against South Africa in terms of margin and what promised to be the a closely contested quarter final, instead ended up being a dull one sided affair.