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Wednesday, July 18, 2018

ICC World Twenty20: Below par Sri Lanka missing fire in belly

Seeing the inexperience and the repeated failures of batters upfront, the clamour for Angelo Mathews' promotion up the order has only intensified.

Written by Vishal Menon | New Delhi | Updated: March 26, 2016 12:00:56 pm
ICC World t20, ICC World T20 2016, Sri Lanka, Sri Lanka cricket, Cricket Sri Lanka, Angelo Mathews, Mathews captain, Lasith Malinga, Malinga injurt, sports news, sports, cricket news, Cricket Just before the WorldT20, their captain and the premier fast bowler Lasith Malinga suffered a knee injury. (Source: AP)

It’s tough being a Sri Lankan cricket fan these days.

Of late, their team has done precious little to cheer them.

Late last year, wicket-keeper batsman Kusal Perera was banned on doping charges.

Barely a fortnight later, Lanka lost their No.1 status in T20s.

Just before the WorldT20, their captain and the premier fast bowler Lasith Malinga suffered a knee injury.

Away from the field, the administrators of the Island nation are dealing with transition.

They are finding it tough to fill the void left behind after the departure of the Big Two Kumara Sangakkara and Mahela Jayawardene.

Just a day before Sri Lanka’s departure to India for the World T20, the sports minister Dayasiri Jayasekara sacked the selection panel headed by Kapila Wijegunawardene, and appointed a new panel, which comprised Aravinda de Silva, Kumar Sangakkara and Romesh Kaluwitharana.

The Asia Cup loss was the trigger for this shake-up. Not satisfied with the team chosen for the World T20, the new panel made a couple of changes.

Lahiru Thirimanne and Suranga Lakmal were drafted in.

And with Malinga injured, Angelo Mathews was back as the captain.

When the changes were announced, Thirimmane’s recall seemed both pragmatic and practical.

With the experience of vice-captain Dinesh Chandimal and Tillakratne Dilshan upfront; Thirimmane, at No.3, looked like a perfect choice.

The reliable batsman was also expected to nullify the pressure on captain Angelo Mathews, who batted lower down the order.

READ: We will give our best shot in the next game, says Dinesh Chandimal

However, in the two matches so far, Thirimanne has done little to justify his inclusion in the side.

Batting at No.3, he has managed to notch up scores of 6 and 5 in the two innings so far, frittering away the brisk starts given by the openers.

Against Afghanistan in the opener, he walked in the sixth over at the fall of Chandimal’s wicket.

Chasing 154, Dilshan was on a rampage.

The situation demanded a subtle approach. Instead, the left-hander found the going tough against the Afghan spinners.

He was unable to rotate strike, and consumed 13 balls for 6 measly runs, before Rashid Khan snapped him.

Thirimmane came out to bat in an entirely different set of circumstances in the second game against West Indies in Bangalore.

Batting first, the openers began with a flurry of boundaries.

But Dilshan departed early.

At that stage, you would have sensed that the situation was beautifully set up for Thirimmane coming in.

However, he ended up spooning a catch at covers, to give West Indies the early advantage.

The lack of impetus in the middle order is a worrying sign for Lanka. And Thirimmane is not the lone culprit.

Barring Dilshan’s heroics in the opener, none of the batsmen have registered a score of any significance.

Ahead of their encounter against England at the Feroz Shah Kotla, vice-captain Chandimal conceded the repeated failures by the middle-order was an area of concern, and admitted that his side cannot always use ‘transition phase’ as an excuse for his team’s failure in recent times.

“We are struggling with middle order. In big games, we don’t have the experience. The guys are working hard in practice, and we are hopeful of turning it around in our next game,” he added.

Clearly, all this last-minute chopping and changing ahead of this tournament, and the knee injury to Malinga have only compounded Lanka’s woes.

The side does not have a settled look, and with one win and a loss, they now have to win all the remaining games to have a realistic chance of progressing to the knock-outs.

Seeing the inexperience and the repeated failures of batters upfront, the clamour for captain Mathews’ promotion up the order has only intensified.

In the second game against the Windies, as the middle-order crumbled, Mathews had little time to build an innings of significance.

Against England at the Feroz Shah Kotla, the Lankan fans would be hoping that their team makes a U-turn.

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