“With only two ODIs remaining against Scotland, the Sri Lankan permutation and combination for the World Cup still seem in a disarray. There were hardly any positives to be taken from the series, except for the hopes of getting better from such murky performances”
The 28th over of the South African innings had just been bowled when one of the flood-light towers in Newlands, Cape Town malfunctioned leading to a blackout in one section of the stadium. That was not just a piece of equipment faltering, instead, it had lessons larger than the mere boxes of steel and glass refusing to illuminate the stadium.
It was a symbolism of the shambolic performance hole of which, Sri Lankan Cricket team charts new depths series after series. It reflected the level of cricket that the current Sri Lankan team has stooped down to, especially in ODIs. A level so deep, that some flashes of brilliance in a rare series here and there, can only provide hallucinations of a glorious future but nothing more.
Admonition, annihilation, complete subversion and capitulation. These are the words which come to mind to describe the scores of 231, 138, 189 and 225 by the Sri Lankan Team in their four completed innings in the recent ODI series against South Africa. What makes these performances more depressing is the fact that they are coming in less than a month’s time of them achieving what none of the other Asian teams could ever achieve i.e. a Test series win in South Africa.
It was not just one department failing to rise. It was a complete failure to continue the good work done in the Test series. Only Kusal Mendis, among the batsmen, could read breach the 200-run mark for the series as he registered a tally of 202 runs at an average of 40.40. Kusal Perera, the hero of the Test wins, failed to replicate that success in the three games (two innings) he played where his willow could only muster a total of 41 runs. Dhananjaya de Silva (88 runs from 4 innings), Thisara Perera (56 runs from 5 innings) and Oshada Fernando (127 runs from 5 innings) – all failed big time in staying true to their responsibilities.
When batsmen don’t do their job properly, the onus comes on the bowling unit to win the games for the team. But if it becomes a perennial expectation, it can become more and more burdensome and ultimately resulting in battered confidence of the unit. When de Silva, bowling less than 6 overs on average for his four appearances, comes out to be your best bowling bet from a series, what else one can expect in the results section? Let’s see what the captain says about the loss which is the fourth instance of a 5-0 whitewash for Sri Lanka since the World Cup 2015 – the most for any team.
“We tried hard. We did not get many runs with the bat. I feel the batters have realized what they need to do. Isuru and Kusal Mendis did really well. The bowlers did well. Had we got a couple of wickets, anything could have happened. All the boys tried to fight hard. We have senior players injured.”
These words from the captain reflect only a hopeless optimism of having positives from the series. “I feel that the batters have realized what they need to do.” Really? Then when were they going to build upon that knowledge gained? Clearly, they didn’t seem too keen to implement that ‘divine knowledge’ in this series. Then again, there is a rant of senior players being injured. What is Malinga trying to gain by such excuses?
Australian senior players were banned from international cricket yet they were able to script a memorable coming-from-behind success story in the Indian backyard. They chose to respond with their performance on the field. But why couldn’t Sri Lanka? The answer lies in the responsibility of players. Usman Khawaja, Adam Zampa and Pat Cummins rose up to take the burden of taking their team forward. But can you find any such pillars in this Sri Lankan performance? The answer, most certainly, ends in negative.
Another point to think about is Malinga’s ability to inspire the team. He is the senior most member of the team and also the one controlling its reigns. But as a player, his bowling average of 51 (for his 4 wickets from 5 games) was his seventh-worst performance ever in series involving a minimum of three matches. These shambolic examples don’t inspire people, instead, such numbers can only pull the confidence of the player down, resulting in all other responsibilities (apart from that of a senior bowler) taking a serious beating.
With only two ODIs remaining against Scotland, the Sri Lankan permutation and combination for the World Cup still seem in a disarray. There were hardly any positives to be taken from the series, except for the hopes of getting better from such murky performances.