In a back home media meet up reassessment of Sri Lanka’s performance at the 2017 ICC Champions Trophy at the Sri Lanka Cricket (SLC) auditorium, in a heavily charged bout of questions raised by media men, Head Coach Graham Ford’s contention that a highly fresher laden Sri Lankan team, most of whom with just 20 odd ODI outings as against the 70 t0 80 by experience hardened opposing players, was plausible reasoning. There was Ford magnifying the majority young team but for a few veterans thrashing reigning champions and championship favourites in record fashion of achieving the highest target chasing as the best example that here was a team evolving.
“These youngsters showed tremendous commitment to defeat reigning champions and championship favourites India setting up an ODI record chasing the highest total. Defeat to Pakistan was one of those bad days where fortunes changed. The fact that Sri Lanka fought back to reduce Pakistan to 168 for 7 wickets from 72 for no loss does speak of commitment,” reasoned the Head Coach who added, “Look most of these lads have barely played more than 20 ODIs compared to veterans such as South Africa’s De Kock counting as much as 70 to 80 ODIs.”
Ford, whom former icon, Kumar Sangakkara has referred to as one of the best taskmasters in the profession who he puts down to a man of few words, but glued to getting the job done, perhaps gave the local media the best team assessment for the future when he said, that ‘when these youngsters come to the stage of having played 80 strong ODIs, Sri Lanka would be as strong as any major team in world cricket.’
The SLC President, Thilanga Sumathipala, welcoming the media, observed that they should take cognizance of the fact that it was a literally young team that had mounted Sri Lanka’s campaign. It was sad that Sri Lanka could not go the distance. But the fact that Sri Lanka had beaten the high riding India and moved to challenging for a semi final berth was laudable in the circumstances where top teams had crashed out early. Furthermore, one should not forget that Sri Lanka enjoyed the enviable record of 09 victories in ODI cricket chasing and achieving over 300-plus targets overseas. These were salient plus points that augured well for the future, and that Sri Lanka cricket was on track.
Skipper, Angelo Mathews humbly took responsibility that the team could not go the extra mile. He said that more than anybody, he and his players were the saddest. But overly defeating India was a big achievement chasing a record 323. The game against Pakistan had been tough. Fact was that Sri Lanka had fought hard, but Pakistan had got the better of his side in a see sawing contest.
Lasith Malinga said that the dropped catch off his bowling was a part of the game. One could not hold it against a particular fielder.
Manager, Ranjith Fernando pointed out that this team, laden with new blood, deserved all the encouragement to evolve to the next level. That was one of the main factors that had influenced him to take up the job of manager.
By Srian Obeyesekere
-The opinions expressed here are the views of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of Sri Lanka Cricket-