A huge transition period awaits the Sri-Lankan ODI team
With the capitulation of Sri-Lanka in the 2015 World Cup quarter final, fans all over the globe have seen the last of Kumar Sangakkara and Mahela Jayawardene in ODI cricket. The senior of the two maestros, Mahela Jayawardene’s batting was a sight to behold. His delicate late cuts, wristy leg glances and perfectly timed chips over the infield had a soothing effect on the eyes. He was one of the few cricketers who appeared to be as calm as a river and would still dismantle the opposition bowling.
The diminutive great found an able comrade in the form of Kumar Sangakkara. The sight of Kumar Sangakkara playing the cover drive with knees completely bent will be forever imprinted in cricket aficionados memory, it gave the impression as if his body was genuflecting to salute the poetry in motion. He was equally dexterous on home and away pitches owing to his impeccable technique, and those four consecutive centuries in this year’s World Cup were a testament to his class.
Angelo Mathews should lead the way forward for Sri-Lanka
The retirement of the two Sri-Lankan greats has left a huge void in their ODI setup. In this predicament, the current ODI captain Angelo Mathews is the player around which the young team will be formed. In the last three years, Mathews has a staggering batting average of 46.72 compared to his overall ODI average of 40.24. It shows how much he has improved and even though injuries hamper him from bowling a lot, he still sneaks in a few vital overs for the team.
What makes Angelo Mathews special is his calmness in the pressure situations apparent in the way he approaches a big chase. His innings of 77 against Australia in 2010 and another one of 80 against Pakistan are perfect examples of how he excels in crunch situations.
Sri-Lanka made a great move in appointing him the captain when Sangakkara and Mahela were still playing. He must have learnt a lot of leadership skills from the two greats. Though his real test would be now since they have retired and he has a young team to lead. What Sri-Lanka would want from him is to show the same calmness and maturity in his captaincy as he displays while batting.
Young batting a work in progress
Amongst the upcoming young batsmen, Lahiru Thirimanne is considered by many to be the best and with 302 runs in this World Cup, he has shown why he is a talent to watch out for in the upcoming future. Sri-Lanka has the likes of Kusal Perera and Dinesh Chandimal as options for wicket keeper-batsman slot but they have an ODI average of 22.78 and 29.83 respectively. It shows the inconsistency of the young batsmen but Chandimal’s knock against Australia in the current World Cup shows what he can achieve in the years to come.
The presence of Tillakaratne Dilshan bodes well for the youngsters as they can seek advice from the experienced campaigner even though he doesn’t have much time left himself since he is 38.
Bowling is Sri-lanka’s Achilles Heel
Lasith Malinga in the twilight of his career would play a pivotal role in the fast bowling department for Sri-Lanka. The wealth of experience with this seasoned campaigner would be a huge asset for the young seamers coming into the national team. Among them, Dushmant Chameera has raw pace which is always an asset and if he can combine his pace with movement he can become a force to reckon with. Suranga Lakmal, Nuwan Pradeep, Shaminda Eranga and Dhammika Prasad are all in their late twenties or early thirties but are still to an extent an untested commodity. If a couple of them can perform for the next four-five years, it would make for a decent pace attack.
With Sri-Lanka it seems like a high quality young spinner is always around the corner. Just like Lasith Malinga, Rangana Herath is the key for Sri-Lanka’s spin attack. It would be ideal for Sri-Lanka if a young spinner can establish himself in international cricket by the time Herath bids adieu.
As it happens with all the teams during the transition period, a team would lose more than they win but with the quality of players Sri-Lanka has produced over the years, we can hope the transition period would pass by smoothly and the glory years would come back soon. The fans need to remember the fable about the Chinese bamboo tree growing from negligible height to a full-fledged tree in just three months after a wait of five years of no visible growth. The strong roots developed during the transition period will serve Sri-Lanka for a long time.