There is no denying that the Sri Lankan squad was the right mix going into the Asia Cup. The initial games did go the way it was planned and this is a good sign. It was nice to see that everyone in the squad got a fair chance. This becomes possible when the team is doing well and therefore opportunities come to allow each person in the squad a turn. I thought it was a good move by Sanga to bat second under lights in the penultimate game against India.
It was good that Kandamby, Rangana Herath and Maharoof were afforded opportunity. Maharoof, in particular, to come back after a long layoff due to injury and perform a hat trick was a fine effort, though he didn’t use opportunity to get runs with the bat in the game against Pakistan.
Our bowling attack has variety, as I said last week and has to be managed. This is vital. Malinga, to me is the key in this area and he has to be match-fit all the time. He is injury prone and needs to be played only in ‘must play’ games leading up to the World Cup. It is the same with Murali. I felt that Randiv should have been used more as Murali on sub continent wickets can be handled by these batsmen with more confidence as seen during the past few years. Recall how Mendis was mastered? It is better to expose someone new to batsmen from the sub continent. Rangana Herath was refreshing. If he bowls as he did at the Asia Cup, he will give Ajantha Mendis a run for his money.
The fielding of our lads was good. And this is an area that has to be at top gear all the time. Kandamby has talent but he did not do himself any favours by getting run out off a no ball. No international cricketer will do that. No sir. He has an edge over Samaraweera in that he can strike the ball better and his fielding too is just marginally better, but the gap seems to be narrowing. Kapugedera is a positive prospect and Sri Lanka will do well to have him go forward with confidence. He can field too and we did see that crucial run out he effected in the penultimate game.
But, the most important aspect of our team should be strength of our batting in the middle of the innings. The selectors need to make up their minds between Kandamby or Samaraweera for number five or six now. Batting revolves around pairs and we have seen this phenomenon an umpteen number of times. Right now it revolves around Sanga and Mahela. As said before, batsmen number five and six should be decided upon soon or even think of Lahiru Thirimanne and Dinesh Chandimal to firm up.
Remember it was Aravinda and Arjuna in the middle and then we had Duleep and Roy Dias before and even Hashan and Roshan later. To my mind, this is the most important area that need to be addressed and addressed now. Remember the Aussies had a match winner in Bevan batting down in the order? Younger players like Kandamby and Kapugedera have to play around Sanga and Mahela. Perhaps Mahela can drop down to number five, allowing Kapu or Kandamby to bat four, thereby strengthening the lower middle. This will obviate the weakness we see when a few wickets fall quickly including that of Mahela.
The final was one of those games when the team had a bad day. The lads did everything right and Sri Lanka looked the better team at the Asia Cup. The Indians out-thought us on one day and they came out on top. That’s the way it happens with cricket, but Sri Lanka need not lose heart.
India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka were the top teams at the Asia Cup with Bangladesh offering a weak fourth. They need to get on with improving their game when these opportunities come their way.
Recall, the game against Pakistan. The Paks got 385 and the Bangladeshis got off to a blinder. True, they could not have made the score but the way they batted was without purpose. When a part time bowler came on during a power play, the Bangladeshis patted him down. This does not do their cricket any good. It is akin to the captains saying at the toss that the wicket looks good for 250 but if a team is at 100 for five, do you yet give away 250? The Bangladeshis should do their homework thoroughly if they are to catch up with the rest.