Dim lights on home disadvantage

So it wasn’t meant to be. After being the best side in the games before the final, brushing all three teams aside and looking the razor-sharp favourites to claim a hat-trick of victories and win it for a ground-breaking fifth time, a horribly one-sided final panned out in front of an agonized home crowd in Dambulla.

While it is always sad when your country loses, it is amplified to devastation if you are a player. Sangakkara spoke of the Asia Cup as a “prestigious tournament” and the importance of winning “matches for Sri Lanka” and in front of their home audience. Just observing the typical Sri Lankan flair and spirit pointed to yet another win for Sri Lanka.

However as Sri Lanka cruised into their 10th Asia Cup final, surprisingly on a Thursday rather than the more traditional Sunday, for yet another clash with India, there was a growing undercurrent of indignation against the quality of the floodlights. While they obviously met ICC regulations, it was naive of Sri Lanka Cricket to ignore the comments of Lasith Malinga and Gautam Gambhir, to name two.

Even after each lost toss and lost match at the infamous Khettarama stadium, Mahela Jayawardena and Kumar Sangakkara refused to blame conditions and admirably accepted that international sportsmen must take whatever hand they are dealt. However in the two rare occasions where Sri Lanka actually won the toss they batted first and inflicted huge defeats on India. One imagines that had the toss factor not been so polarising, what could have been?

Now in Dambulla, many will point to India’s chase against Pakistan and Sri Lanka’s win on Tuesday but one must take into consideration the notorious unpredictability of the pitch and that the final was played on a different wicket. If one saw the bounce and swing India’s pacemen generated one could have marvelled at what the in-form Nuwan Kulasekara, Lasith Malinga and Angelo Mathews would have done. Indeed back in the Premadasa had Sri Lanka won the toss and given Ajantha Mendis the chance in the dark his bowling and confidence would not have declined so sharply. The extra movement and poor visibility under floodlights renders batting a totally different art.

Sri Lanka were and still are feared for their dominance at home. Batting frailty aside, when toss is boss and you don’t have Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s obscene luck with the silver you have a situation where Sri Lanka’s nous at home is negated. Losses to England, India twice and many unsuccessful chases at the Premadasa dent a proud win-loss ratio.

Excuses aside, our cricketers did not adapt to the idiosyncrasies of the game, hence the defeat. But the sheer helplessness of the plight inflicted by the spin of the coin and the resultant steeper mountain the team batting second must climb, compounded by the recent misfortune of Sri Lankan captains with the toss makes home one dayers a grim tale. The potential repercussions of this are so grim inaction is not an option.

PhotoIn a press conference before the tournament with Aravinda de Silva, Kumar Sangakkara and Somachandra de Silva a journalist asked Sanga about the importance of the toss. With classic Sangakkara-esque level-headedness he replied we have to be mentally tough and deal with the situation. Easier said than done. Indeed many visiting teams, India included, will fail in this arena.

A miniscule but loud pocket of fair-weather Sri Lankan fans will ridicule the team’s efforts, call for Sangakkara’s head and bray all kinds of orders from their computer chair. But there is much we can learn from international sportsmen.

In the past two days, we have witnessed former football world champions France and Italy crash out of the world cup. In Wimbledon, John Isner and Nicolas Mahut played the longest match in history knowing one would fall short in the titanic battle. However all these players, including our flagship sporting team, despite having lost this prestigious tournament and chance to win it for a fifth time, will not fall into depression and disrepair. We will return when the Asia Cup is next held, probably 2012 and Aravinda de Silva will continue to architect his plan to bring back the world cup next year.

The next stage of this will be to erase the sadness of today with victory in cricket’s finest version and hope that the wicket at Rangiri Dambulu is kinder to the game responsible for its being when Sri Lanka take on India and New Zealand. Our unstinting best wishes are with our country’s cricketers. Forget about today. Life moves on. Cricket is just a game and the blast in Pettah puts it all into perspective.

Comments

Sujan's picture
Member since:
27 December 2008
Last activity:
1 week 3 days

Damn it.. MSD wins the toss every time when needed.

Anonymous's picture

well, here are some facts,
1. sri lankan batsmen cant handle bounce
2. cant handle movement off the pitch
3. the team needs a genuine quick bowler coz malinga cant always do it alone. ( but definietly not dilhara)
4.all batsmen have poor shot selection.( maybe they need a new batting coach or something)
5. upul tharanga should make way for a better opener, chandimal should be tried out as an opener or some1 els coz tharanga is too inconsistent.
6.failing players should make way for new players.
7.players shouldnt be selected on a single moment of success.
6. sri lanka will never win the world cup 2011 because players cant handle the pressure of the "big matches". ( it has always been the case with sri lankan teams for a long time now.)
no body wants to watch a match for about 8 hours to c how we loose!

st's picture

haha we got struck in our own net.we were planning to use malinga and muruli in lights

SMSD's picture
Member since:
20 December 2008
Last activity:
8 years 9 weeks

Well, yes to some of the above.

Certainly not point no 6 , we never give up hope that on the odd day, our team got it in them to spring us surprises.

Bandula's picture

Sorry, Don't blame the team for one loss and let the new selectors do the job.
Its time that SLC spend some of the money to develop the grounds to better than the minimum ICC standards. Lasith Malinga who is the best limited over bowler at the moment commented that the lights were inadequate. He knows why batters find it difficult at times. If we want to be at par with England, Australia, South Africa, India, West Indies and all other test playing nations, improve the ground conditions. Don't expect Sri Lanka to win the toss everytime. We have to take our chances and be prepared for any condition if the playing fields are level where the human factor can contribute.

Ranjan Rodrigo's picture

I fully agree withall your comments. Today, our A team too could not handle seam and got out fot78.
Our team needs a Sports psychologist. Better to spend on such, than Nishantha going on 30 overseas trips.
The entire country seems to think that we have a good chance of winning the World Cup even with Sanath as a passenger. A bane on our team for 15 years is that when we are under pressure and chasing a score, our bats panic and get runout. Follow the simple rule if you cant handle pressure - If the batsman hits a ball in front of him, it is his call and the other has to respond regardless. If the batsman hits the ball behind him, then the non striker has the right to call. If we lose wickets quickly, the lower order thiks they cant retrieve the position. Our lower order shud not throw their wickets but try to improve.
Our batsman often get out caught in midfield or closer. Hit the ball along the ground and only the loose ball hit well over the firelder or over the ropes. For that we need strong power hitters. Mahroof shud be given another chance and if he fails, curtains. Yestrday, kapu may have turned the corner after being given a long run. Hope he is consistent or else he shud be dropped. In fact any batsman if not consistent shud be dropped. Build reserve players like Chandimal, Tirimanne, Chamara Silva and bowlers Suraj, Jeewan. Paranavitharana hit 2 sixes against a superb bowling attack of Hilfenhaus, George, McDonald and O'Keefe. Some of these slow bats can be poewer hitters if given a chance.
Ranjan Rodrigo, Sydney

jayalal's picture

Why cant the SLC spend money on new lights and see about the wicket in Dambulla and also Khettarama. The curator Polonowita is over 75 years and reports are thet he makes commission on hi s job. He shud retire along with Sanath and the SLC gang of 3 removed
Jayalal

Anonymous's picture

the age old question still remains unanswered, " why cant sri lankan batsmen handle bounce and movement off the wicket?" what are they doing to get used to these conditions? from what we saw last night either they are not doing anything about it or what they are doing is absolutely useless! its not that we win or loose, you win some you loose some.(though a good team will win more than they loose) but when the same old faults keeps coming on and on and on and biting us, you have to ask yourself, is there no end to this ignorance? it seems that our team wins only when the conditions are absolutely perfect! after all does sri lankan players have to worry about failure? i don't think so, coz from what we've seen over the years a players lack of performance and his position in the team has no link!

Hilal's picture
Member since:
20 November 2008
Last activity:
21 hours 34 min

Through the 90s we had Aravinda, Arjuna, Hashan and others really hold the middle order together and play long knocks when the top failed. If we are going to have aggressive openers then the seniors in the middle order need to play with a degree of responsibility and maturity and see the side home.

We have not seen a similar effort made from our seniors for years now.

We have failed to develop good middle order batsmen in our quest to promote all our batsman to the top and try to replicate Sanath's brilliance.

I mean if you think about it, Dilshan has played for years now and he was maturing into an experienced middle order player till we pushed him up the order. Same applies to Mahela, he also now aspires to be the next Jayasuriya as an opener. We are then filling our middle order with inexperienced batsmen at the international level.

SMSD's picture
Member since:
20 December 2008
Last activity:
8 years 9 weeks

I think using Chamara Silva again & again would be flogging a dead horse. lol. He hasn't done anything noteworthy since 2007.

I think to include Paranavithana in the ODI team would be a mistake.

But you are right, Chandimal, Lahiru, Jeeven & Suraj Randiv should be groomed as potential WC 2011 squad members.

Like Hilal pointed out, every time a senior player knocks a half ton or a ton, they set their sights up to become the "openers", leaving a huge gap in the middle. Frankly, these days, when the 3rd wkt falls (unless our guardian Angle AKA Angelo performs), they all fall like flies.

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