SL Openers' Eight-Hops to World Cup Exit… were they Mistakes or Misdeeds?

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Someone could say it is easy to find faults afterwards to blame, for any genuine mistakes committed inadvertently. But, if an ultimate failure caused from a sequence of misdemeanours that were clearly visible throughout & had been repeatedly pointed out, that can never be justified or forgiven as a mistake! The way things were happening, this outcome was pretty much predictable & it was precisely predicted well-ahead (months ago) by deeply interested few people like me, who had been closely following the game for many decades. That prediction of non-professionals (in Cricket) is a clear-cut factor, to define the obvious line between “mistakes” & “misdeeds“ committed by so-called professionals, failing to do their duty properly to achieve WC success. If we could see the impending doom months ahead, why couldn't they ? After all, they have been appointed to do a job for the Nation. Their prime duty is to work for the progress & success of SL Cricket and certainly, not to act upon any personal whims & fancies, at the cost of SL Cricket.

Now let us look back to surface the sequence of misdemeanours leading to this WC Doom & Gloom (as predicted), initiated at the top OPENING spot in batting order & progressively destabilized the whole side until WC Disaster.

Ruling party legislator, Mr. Sanath Jayasuriya was appointed as chairman of Sri Lanka selection panel in Jan 28 th, 2013. The long-nail of doom-deal, initially hammered right there at the beginning by removing SL regular Number One Opening batsmen (Upul Tharanga just turned 28 years), who did an enormous service in previous seven years. At that time UT had played 152 in – 4941 runs @ 34.31 Av and in his most recent 2 years (2011/12) Tharanga had recorded FOUR x 100+ & TEN x 50+ & had accumulated 1,578 runs @ 36.69 Av from 47 ODI innings with 75.71 SR.

None could give any valid reason to justify the elimination of such a young experienced opener from the squad selected to ICC-CT-2013 played in England, just because he had a lean patch of 3 ODIs in Australia in Jan 2013 (he had scored 282 runs @ 31.33 Av in his previous 10 Odis including 3 x 50+ scores ( 60 Vs NZ / 59* & 51 Vs India). To date, Upul is the only SL player with 2 x 100+ in ICC-CT tournaments & he has the best SL batting Average 69.40 for a player in England. We all know what happened in that ICC-CT played in England with UT’s replacement.

So that was clearly the First Step of this doom & gloom journey in opening spot....

Then came the Triangular tournament in WI & Dilly got injured. UT got a last moment opportunity as the replacement for Dilly, because Kusal was already selected to the squad despite his 14 runs from 4 innings @ 3.5Av at ICC-CT. Tharanga opened with MJ & scored his career best score of unbeaten 174* Vs Ind in Kingston, to put-up a record breaking massive  200+ partnership to win that match Vs Ind & making a World Record for putting up highest number (Seven) of 200+ partnerships. He also topped 5,000 ODI runs as the 2nd fastest to do so in SL in 167 innings. Altogether, UT was given 7 Odis in that month. He managed 274 runs @ 39.14 Av with that unbeaten 100+ & 43 Vs SA during that month of July 2013. Despite all these achievements, he was AXED from every consecutive squad again for 10 months, until mid 2014.

That was the Second Step of doom & gloom journey in opening spot...

After keeping him away from playing any ODI for 10 months, a solitary ODI Vs Ire was given in May 2014, where he scored 24 runs, staying at the wicket until 50 runs up on the board, despite (Kusal : 0 runs in 4b & Thri: 8 runs in 24b) Two Wickets going down in initial overs, UT withstood the devastating new ball seam attack spells (prevailed in that Irish morning conditions), without exposing the middle order, until the conditions completely withered off (18 th over). Unfortunately he got out after doing the hard work to prevent an imminent total collapse. Failed Kusal & Thiri got selected to the squad for the immediately followed series in England (to miserably fail again).

UT was strangely axed again. He was sent home after that solitary ODI Vs Ireland, played in 10 months.

That was the Third Step of doom & gloom journey in opening spot..

Even with the comfort of BD & Middle-eastern docile decks Kusal managed only 620 runs from 27 ODIs @28.18 with a solitary 100 Vs BD & 3x 50 (Vs BD /Ind /PK) up to May 2014, where all other front order batters averaged well over 35. Since May 2014, Kusal Perera was rewarded with further 14 ODIs to play regularly in consecutive series Vs Ire in Ire / Vs Eng in Eng / Vs SA in SL / Vs Eng in SL / Vs Ind in India/, despite repeatedly failing outside home comfort & managing a paltry 219 runs @ 15.64 Av with a solitary 50 in SL & FIVE- DUCKS from 14 innings (overall long sequence of Single-Digit <10 ball innings 19 /41= almost 50% including 4 innings ICC-CT-2013 & 1 in 2015 WC & 7 DUCKS). !

Tharanga was overlooked for the series in Eng & series Vs SA played in SL in July 2014. After another 3 months away since solitary ODI in Ireland, Tharanga was given 3 Odis Vs PK & 2 Test Series Vs SA & PK, (after SEVEN year break from Test Cricket) where he scored heavily & gathered 306 runs @ 38.25 Av with scores of 83 & 30 Vs SA/ 92 & 45 Vs PK (Series Winning highest contributor in decider match). Despite all this & being the highest scorer (76 runs) in warm up match Vs Indian XI, he was given just another Solitary ODI Vs India after THREE months to play & sent home (where he scored 27 runs, 4 times more than his replacements collectively gathered from remaining 4 ODIS), reinstalling Kusal at the top to contribute 2 DUCKS from 3 innings in that humiliating 5-0 disaster.

That was the Fourth Step of doom & gloom journey in opening spot.

Then the Englishmen came to play a 7-ODI series in SL. As usual, Kusal was selected yet again to open, despite his dismal performances (3 in- 4 runs @1.33 Av) in humiliating defeat India. UT was overlooked for a place in the Squad for the SIXTH time in 17 months, since July 2013. Kusal failed again at the top, managing just 99 runs @ 19.80 Av from 5 consecutive innings adding another couple of DUCKS to his collection.

That was the Fifth Step of doom & gloom journey in opening spot....

Immediately afterwards, Test squad to NZ was announced. Shockingly the highest contributor (Tharanga 92 & 45), in the previously won Test series decider Vs PK in August, was omitted from the Squad to NZ. For the first time in history, such a despicable omission occurred in SL (probably in the World). Dimuth Karunarathne was selected instead, with no justification whatsoever for his selection over UT. Dimuth failed in both Tests, except for one lottery inning of 152 (due to a dropped dolly in his single digit). It only reduced the loosing margin, but heavily contributed to the 2-0 defeat with his low scores of 0, 16, 17 in all other 3 innings, failing to survive even a few overs in 2 Tests. Obviously, Dimuth’s selection only blocked the deservedly earned chance of Upul to impress with some good Test knocks in NZ, prior to WC & NZ ODI series!

That was the Sixth Step of doom & gloom journey in opening spot...

Strangely, WC & NZ 7-ODI series squads were announced, including Dimuth to open in ODIs (having no credentials whatsoever in ODIs), based on that solitary lottery inning of 152 in doomed Test Series. As predicted he repeatedly failed, playing in 6 ODIs Vs NZ to score appalling 83 runs @ 13.83 Av - 63.38 SR to bring down SL with another series defeat in the hands of Kiwis. Eventually he ended up in middle order in the WC to collect 37 runs @ 18.50 Av from 4 ODIs.!

Overlooked opener Tharanga has a good record in NZ (better than Dilly up to that tour) 8 in- 264 runs @ 33.00 Av- 70 SR with 1 x 100+ & 1 x 50+ in ODIs. But nothing matters in the eyes of Selectors in his case, to be considered for a reasonable window of opportunity, while all others keep receiving consecutive chances gifted by Sanath & Co, despite constant failures. This was the general scenario, since the day UT was initially axed in 2013.

That was the Seventh Step of doom & gloom journey in opening spot.....

Then started the WC with Thirimanne becoming the opener & he did a much better job than the rest, thriving on repeated luck to have all opponents to spill easy dollies given to slips, when at single digit in all 3 productive innings Vs BD /NZ /Eng. Other 3 innings Vs AF / Aus / Scot ended with 0, 1 & 4. He did a god job at his correct position as number 4, scoring 41 runs facing 48 balls in QF, under immense pressure initiated by failed openers at the top.

Tharanga was grafted to the squad, when another failure Jeevan Mendis got injured just before the WC match Vs BD in Sydney. He was not considered for the playing XI quoting “jet-lag” & put him to play Vs Aus in the following match & sent @ Number 8 in the TAIL to bat with Sachitra & Malinga towards the end, after that encounter has been already driven to a hopeless situation by the Top & Middle order batters (except for Sanga, Dilly & Chandi). If Tharanga was sent at least when MJ got out for a low score at 30thover, SL had a good chance of utilizing UT’s capabilities & experience as a partnership builder & a situation appropriate aggressor, when established (Tharanga holds the 3rd highest boundary scoring frequency per number of balls in SL - 11.7 balls per boundary).

Then Kusal Perera was parachuted to the side, in place of injured Chandimal & found a firm place in the playing XI immediately, over previously came Tharanga (similar to what happened in the disaster at India in Nov). He went on to play Vs Scot in a small batting paradise at Hobart & managed just 24 runs coming at Number 6 spot in a match, 2 well above run-a-ball quick Hundreds scored by Sanga /Dilly & a record breaking 32 ball 51 scored by Mathews with 6 x 4s in one over!

Next came the most crucial knockout stage WC Quarter Finals at SCG, as always happened during the past two years, the Biggest Failure in history at the Opening Spot, Kusal Perera was sent to open with Dilly for the 40th time (within past 20 months), pushing rejuvenated Thirimanne to come one down & smiling Tharanga to warm a bench outside playing XI, as continuously dished-out by selectors.

That was the Eighth Step of doom & gloom journey in opening spot....

Batting was SL strength to rely upon in that WC. But, SL selectors left out the 3rd MOST Productive Batsmen in Global Competitions, (WU Tharanga: 26 innings = 20 WC+ 6 CT - 1013 Runs – 75.78 SR - 42.20 Av – 4 x 100 – 5 x 50). Unbelievably, they preferred to send a repeated failure like Kusal Perera to open with Dilly Vs SA, in that crucial match in Sydney. Considering Kusal (constantly failed) over Upul Tharanga, as repeatedly done during the past couple of years. This ultimate move hammered the final nail to SL’s Coffin in 2015 WC, ending the Two-year long doom & gloom journey up to WC, started with axing of SL’s MOST EXPERIENCED Number ONE Opener Tharanga (who Opened 156 ODIs) from SL’s Opening Spot.

After an enjoyable long tour of NZ & Australia, Chief Selector Mr. Sanath Jaysuriya & Coach Mr. Marvan Athapaththu were seen returning to the Island with broad smiles on their faces as if nothing had ever happened.
“Opener” Kusal Janith Perera just added another one to his "PRESTIGIOUS" long sequence of Single-Digit <10 ball innings 19 /41= almost 50% (including 4 innings ICC-CT-2013 & 1 in 2015 WC & 7 DUCKS) contributing big-time to smash all dreams & hopes of millions, in our Island Nation!                       

                                                                               D - O - M -  E - D.... !


Anonymous's picture

Future ODI 11


Chaminda's picture

For all Tharanga dreamers please see

he had second worst average and worst strike rate among openers in Australia. Tharanga is only good at batting in slow turing pitches and that make his record bloated. And these dreamers chase those numbers. He is a poor fielder which was all to see in his only match he played vs Australia.

HumbleBee's picture
Member since:
9 March 2011
Last activity:
2 weeks 5 days

@Chaminda: Do you know Tharanga has the same batting Av 28.09 in Australia Vs Aus as Dilshan Av 28.43 (up to this WC with new field restriction rules)? True, Dilly has a better SR but never won a MoM award in Aus, but Upul had won a crucial match for us with an unbeaten 86* & Won the only series in Aus to date, for SL receiving a MoM.! Don't go by stats manipulated (according to India) to a short period, but consider the overall.

Tharanga's batting average in Australia Vs Aus is 28.09 & won one MoM award.

12 in - 309 runs - 86* HS - 28.09 Av - 62.17 SR* - 3 x 50+
*(before new field restriction rules)

Dilshan's batting average in Australia Vs Aus is 28.43 (up to this WC with new rules)

26 in - 654 runs - 106 HS- 28.43 Av - 80.04 SR - 1 x 100 - 3 x 50+

(Last edited by HumbleBee on March 24, 2015 - 07:03)
Anonymous's picture

Tharanga has played well in England & New Zealand. So, he is capable of playing in seaming conditions. Which Sri Lankan opening batsman has played well in Australia? In my opinion, we should have stuck with him in last two years. He would have scored 4 or 5 centuries. He is good in New Zealand conditions and he would have definitely played well in world cups better than Kusal and Karunarathne.

No matter what and how good he has performed, some people cannot stand Upul Tharanga. Sanath Jayasuriya and Marvan Atapattu see the same way.

HumbleBee's picture
Member since:
9 March 2011
Last activity:
2 weeks 5 days


This is Tharanga's record playing in Australia / NZ / WI / Eng / SA up to 2015 (since not selected to squads or played any in 2015 except for 1 at tail).

Those countries do NOT have slow turning wickets in general. Look at Tharanga's record playing those countries with bounce/ swing/ seam & pace on their decks. The stats are limited to above HOSTING nations, Vs all test playing nations (except BD & Zim) in all ODI tournaments: Tharanga has the SECOND BEST 35.45 Av (Sanga has the best 40.5 Av). So what you are saying is completely WRONG Chaminda.

Tharanga : 48 in - 1631 - 174* HS - 35.45 Av- 72.65 SR - 4 x 100+ - 10 x 50+

Look at Dilshan's record in Such countries up to 2015 (only the SR is better compared to UT):

84 in - 2378 runs- 160* HS - 32.57 Av - 81.63 SR - 3 x 100 - 11 x 50+

Sanga's Record up to 2015:

124 in - 4198 runs - 134* HS - 37.81 Av - 76.84 SR - 5 x 100 - 29 x 50+

Anonymous's picture

@ Anonymous #4 :

what to say... Tharanga & all his services & achievements/records as an opener (until he was chased away) are non existing things for some people. Strange thing is they don't even remember that Upul had opened SL in 150+ Odis around the world & now they consider him same as, he had just started & pointing a 3 match lean period in Aus to conclude all his abilities & weaknesses, after playing 176 ODIs over 8 years & scoring over five thousand runs with 41 over 50 scores including many 100+ scores. Pathetic..!

as you rightly said, SJ & Marvan are also among them. They don't care, whether SL win or not,. what they want is somehow ruin Tharanga's career & progress at any cost. Why.?

they all talk about a very few good innings of Thri, Chandi, Mathews out of numerous bad innings causing defeats. they highly praise about Kusal's talents & rate him over sky high limits, without a single ODI knock against a strong opponent to show his so called potential. Zillion chances, million failures went unnoticed.All they say is, he is still inexperienced. Didn't he he play for 2 yrs now with forty odd consecutive chances given to him ? isn't this experience & exposure not enough for anyone to show at least some of their skills in a productive way, if they have any? Sadly all what he did was constantly failing and virtually put Sanga to become the 3rd opener in the side. Why don't they admit this reality is beyond me.!

rshan1994's picture
Member since:
21 February 2013
Last activity:
42 weeks 18 hours

For me Tharanga, Kusal , Thirimanne are same. Bcz all of these have some weakness to play the fast balls which goes just outside the off-stump. Thiri was bit lucky to drop his catches this time.

HumbleBee's picture
Member since:
9 March 2011
Last activity:
2 weeks 5 days

If you consider OCCASIONAL edges of openers coming from their blades (Not frequent enough to bring down their career Averages to unacceptable levels) as a WEAKNESS, , then every opener around the world have that "weakness", because they are dealing with the shiny new ball movement in the air & off the pitch in initial spells. Therefore, occasional edges are COMMON occurrence seen in all of them.!

Frequently edging Openers obviously CANNOT survive to maintain a 30-40 batting Average, throughout their careers. Longer the maintained career Average record better the credential reflecting their CAPABILITIES as Openers! So that is the ONLY Accepted Criteria to measure the ability of an Opener.

Example: Thirimanne's record as No ONE Opener:

12 in- 382 runs @ 34.72 Av - 74.17 SR - 139* HS

We all know how he survived in all FOUR of his good WC innings to score some runs (due to easy slip catches dropped in each inning, when he was @ single digit). He was lucky enough to get that many lives in 12 innings). So he could managed a 34.47 Av in a short stint of 12 innings, despite that many frequent chances.

Now look at Tharanga's record as NO One Opener:

151 in - 4902 runs -34.27 Av- 74.01 SR - 174* HS

UT had scored 4,902 runs as No One Opener & maintained an Av 34.27 in a long career record of 151 innings & obviously any luck wouldn't persist (as seen with Thirimanne's short stint) for that long, to help anyone to maintain such batting Averages through that many number of innings in their careers!

That is why you need to judge any Openers ability with their records & not from any occasional edges.

(Last edited by HumbleBee on March 25, 2015 - 09:05)
Stormy's picture
Member since:
15 January 2011
Last activity:
17 hours 35 min

Oh man! yes agreed there were selections mis-deeds and one of them was selecting Tharanga as a replacement for Mendis. This was an opportunity to correct a mistake and they selected Tharanga!

Selecting Mendis for Aus/NZ, after numerous failures in spin friendly conditions at home, was another as was selecting Dimuth for the WC based on one test knock.

For the Tharanga backers, yes his record is impressive and yes he may still play a role for SL but the point is this - playing Tharanga alonside Dilly, Sanga and Mahela would have made our top order a bit one diementional in these days when your looking for 300+. Does raise the question why we selected Dimuth, who ended up batting in the middle order - as I said I agree selections were crazy and Tharanga was part of that.

JontyRodes's picture

Good article. First of all SL should clean up the mess with Team / Squad Selections, which is the root-cause of WC deserter & downgrading the overall standard & rankings of SL Cricket.

If not for the super-heroic tireless efforts by our two veterans Sanga & Dilly, SL would have ended up in the bottom of the ranking tables, below Bangladesh & even Zimbabwe!

If these people were allowed to continue this trend any further, in the 12th step; SL cricket would be stripped of Test status and demoted to the ranks of Associate members in another couple of years time!

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