By Leonard Ratnayake
For every Sri Lankan cricket fan, the World Cup 2015 was already won by them, even before it commenced. Winning the T20 World Cup in 2014, they had proven that they are no more the runners-up in ICC events. Sri Lankan cricket team has the greatest of the batsmen, the most- feared of the bowlers and the smartest of the cricketing brains in the field. To add, we have a bunch of coaches, selectors, and the managers to guide the currently most experienced team in the cricketing world.
Tillakaratne Dilshan, Kumar Sangakkara, Mahela Jayawardena and Lasith Malinga have become bigger names than Sanath Jayasuriya, Asanka Gurusinghe, Aravinda de Silva and Arjuna Ranatunga in 1996. But have they got what it takes to deliver to an appealing nation’s hopes? For me, it is only the young skipper Angelo Mathews is lobbing a solitary battle to earn the crown and for his misfortune, there are too many cooks to spoil the soup.
Expectations are high on the big names to perform. Dilshan’s approach to batting and the manner he got out against New Zealand, while a maturing Tirimanna was scoring at ease in the other end, cast doubts whether we were to rely on big guns or young blood. Then against Afghanistan, both succumbed to ducks. The pair does not play the role of dashing openers, who could have risked their wickets like in the 1996 experiments.
Sure Sangakkara is a better cricketer than Gurusinghe but not a batsman who at number three could consolidate any pressure situation like the latter used to do. On his day, Sangakkara would do wonders to keep the scoreboard clicking until he reaches a landmark.
Good news is that Jayawardene is among runs. He could always adapt to situations with his crafty knocks. He is also another record maker, but had left the question yet to insist, how far he has matured as a match winner for Sri Lanka, who could carry patience and courage to bat out tensed endings to convert them to victories?
Lot was spoken about Malinga’s importance prior to the world cup while he was nursing an injury. Many thought, he couldn’t make it to the big tournament. When the Sri Lankan team walked to the middle I mistakenly thought it was Arjuna Ranatunga walking in for Malinga. The oversight for similarity was not because Malinga was fortunate to be regarded as a World Cup winning captain or I got confused for their coloured hair, but for their ten-pound bellied chubby figure. This is the feared pace bowler that Sri Lanka should rely on to win a World Cup. No doubt, Malinga is a better talent, if he had been well-educated in all areas.
World Cup is a big and a long tournament, which needs consistency and commitment right throughout from every single person in the dressing room. Additionally, in 1996, Ranatunga’s team had sheer determination and lion-mauling attitude with a correct approach which helped them win the World Cup. I doubt, this Sri Lankan squad has got that right although they are better bunch great individuals.
With a bagful of hopes, in 1999, Ranatunga led the best Sri Lankan team ever on records for a World Cup and the then BCCSL organized and sponsored a “Let’s do it again” campaign which was launched at the Nawam Mawatha building.
Attending for the launch, an incumbent president’s Thilanga Sumathipala’s ally reached me and whispered “rather than preparing for the world cup, got to prepare for the BCCSL elections, as Clifford Ratwatte had come forward to contest for the presidency”. Ratwatte was a nominee by the Upali/Jayantha Dharmadasa camp with the state’s blessings being the uncle of the then Sri Lanka’s President Chandrika Bandaranaike, thus high profile politics entering to cricket administration, which was rich and famous to make sure what it is today.
Meanwhile the defending World Champions Sri Lanka got lost in their campaign “Let’s do it again” and did exactly again what we used to do; a group stage exit from the World Cup.
Come today, on the light of the ongoing world cup, sports minister Naveen Dissanayake, intelligently postponed the elections to the end of April to give enough time to prepare for the cricket’s political campaigning. Ironically, with Bangladesh sharing points with Australia due to a wash-out, yet Sri Lanka does not rule out of a group stage exit.
Should Dilshan have continued until Cricket World Cup 2019?
"It was quite an embarrassing defeat. It was pure poor batting and the execution. You have to be really skillful to bat against these guys, especially in these conditions. Anderson once again showed his class. Stuart Broad was brilliant as well. One or two of our guys needed to raise our hands and put up a good score, particularly in the first innings. We failed to do that in the first innings, and once again in the second innings, so that's a pretty obvious reason for our defeat." - Angelo Mathews
Cricket is a game of fine margins and Mathews is set to be a modern great. Hang in their Angie, this team can achieve something on this tour. Thirimane and the youngsters form was a real positive. Prasad was missed. Chameera should be persisted with. If Bairstow was our early outcome could have been very different.
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