WT20: Sri Lanka's many weaknesses

By Michael Roberts | March 23, 2016

Originally selected for the World Twenty20, Jeffrey Vandersay was axed inexplicably a day before the team departed to India for the tournament, but has since returned to the side after Lasith Malinga's injury. © AFP PHOTO

Sri Lanka's chances of qualifying for the semi-finals of the World Twenty20 have been deemed dim and slim by myself as well as the gamblers' tote for a number of reasons. Let me argue my case by an unconventional route by raising a simple question: how many Sri Lankans have been selected by the franchises in the Indian IPL? The answer is: only two, Lasith Malinga and Thisara Perera. The exclusion of Pakistanis is political, but all the other principal contenders have more in the IPL line-up, though I believe England and Bangladesh may not be all that well represented.

However, there are several other grounds for my pessimistic reasoning. Let me commence by listing them, albeit not in any order of importance.

1)  Sri Lanka has insufficient players with maturity and experience.

2) Sri Lanka has too many bunnies with the bat in the likely first XI, namely, Lasith Malinga, Rangana Herath, Dushmantha Chameera and Suranga Lakmal — resulting in Nos. 9, 10 and 11 being usually dead meat (since the days of Malinga's heroics with the bat seem long gone).

3) Sri Lanka does not have an adequate line-up of solid all-rounders, with serious question marks hanging over the reliability of Milinda Siriwardana, Shehan Jayasuriya and Dasun Shanaka in the bowling department. Can any captain rely on one of them to bowl four overs?

4). Sri Lanka's pace attack is mediocre at best — even with a fit Malinga.

5) Sri Lanka' spin attack is also mediocre now.

The last contention is a devastating one, is it not! Even after Muttiah Muralitharan retired, the spin attack in the short-form games was formidable, but now Ajantha Mendis has lost his mojo and his will. Herath seems to have had his bite and spite reduced after the finger injury in early 2015, while his movement around the field has declined with age so that he could add 8-15 runs to the batting side in the course of a match. Sachitra Senanayake too has been less effective and less economical after he was forced to modify his action. Jayasuriya's bowling has been less than impressive, even weak. Siriwardena began well in matches in Sri Lanka, but has faded in the Indian subcontinent.

It seems a pity that the selectors and/or the touring parties did not give Jeffrey Vandersay a more extended run in the middle on recent tours. This may have been induced by the playing conditions in New Zealand and Bangladesh. Imran Tahir was erratic in performance when he started, but has become a regular bowler and wicket-taker for South Africa. Likewise, Australia see Adam Zampa as an asset (one who ousted Cameron Boyce in the competition for the role of right-arm leg-spinner, while both pushed Xavier Doherty into the also rans).

It is, incidentally, about time that some stats-guru compared the returns in economy/rate and strike rate of (a) pace bowlers (b) off spinners and (c) left arm spinners and (d) right arm leg-spinners across all countries — with a breakdown that also separates out the broad location of the matches (England, Middle East, Indian subcontinent, Caribbean, Australia, New Zealand). It would not surprise me if one of the spinning divisions comes up best in economy rate or even strike rate for T20s and ODIs in several of these locations.

This essay was penned prior to Sri Lanka's World Twenty20 clash against West Indies on March 20, 2016.

WT20: Misfortune has compounded Sri Lanka's problems
WT20: Too many heads and too many guillotines

© Island Cricket


Percy's picture

Blunders made by Mathews in selecting bowling options have also contributed to the pathetic display. For an example, in West Indies match rather than opting for the best fast bowler or the best spinner with a view of taking early wickets, he chose to bowl the 1st over giving away 13 runs. Although many reputed cricket writers have suggested that we make use of Dushmantha Chameera to share the new bowl, Mathews use him as the 5th or 6th bowler in the line up engaging him in a 'containing' role. Further in WI match, strangely Dilshan was discarded as a useful slow bowler. In the batting Dept too he should consider the position to bat as he lacks variety of shots needed in 20/20 category, especially demonstrated in WI match. Hope he will dilute his 'ego' and make the best use of the players. While respecting the views of Michael Roberts, I personally feel that the TEAM has the ability to beat both England and South Africa if they apply themselves with courage and determination with the Captain consulting seniors on crucial decisions on the field. Percy

HENRY's picture

You're correct. its time we all face reality and stop talking of our past glories. Players should be selected on current performance (6-9months) and not on their past 20-30months .

Also we don't have any power hitters, sadly their sixers just manage to reach a short boundary.

Thisara Perera to me is just size and no cricket brain.

delan82's picture
Member since:
18 October 2009
Last activity:
7 hours 24 min

Of the 5 points listed it is number 5 and 3 that are most alarming and disappointing given the location where the tournament is played!

The captaincy dilemmas and changes wouldn't have helped either.
Nor out of form batsmen!

K.G.W.Abeytunge's picture

If Thahir was erratic when he started, but has settled down into a very useful bowler now, why not be patient with our players as well? Why are some critics asking for the heads of talented players such as Chandimal and Thirimanne, both of whom are very good in the longer games?

delan82's picture
Member since:
18 October 2009
Last activity:
7 hours 24 min

By longer games I am assuming you mean ODIs? Because Thiramanne is struggling as a Test cricketer.

K.G.W.Abeytunge's picture

Thirimanne has a test average of 24.84 in 23 test matches with one century. He has played 107 ODIs with an average of 34.48, with four hundreds and a highest score of 139 not out. In T20s, his average in 26 matches is 16.16 with a highest score of 44 runs. I think he should be given more opportunities in Tests and T20s to become a good player. There is nothing wrong with his ODI stats.

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