Cricket Lovely Cricket!!!

I am a die-hard cricket enthusiast. These are my personal views on Sri Lanka’s most loved game.

Friday, December 30, 2005

The next captain?

Who should captain the team for the 2007 World Cup? Does Atapattu still have enough in him? Well, he did win the award for the 'Best One-day captain' in the last ICC awards, but that was before the Indian series wasn't it? Analysing Atapattu's captaincy during the disastrous Indian series, I think he lacks rigour and aggressiveness. He tends to take a somewhat back-foot when daring decisions have to be made. Moreover, relieving Atapattu from his current responsibilities will give him more time to concentrate on his own batting, which we all know can be devasting when he's on song.

Why was Mahela Jayawardena demoted from the Vice-captaincy he was holding strongly? I thought he would have been an obvious choice to succeed Atapattu. The selectors decision to take him down was totally irrational and unjustifiable. He scored many match winning knocks during his tenure and his batting form never sufferred. Chaminda Vaas taking his spot at this point in time can be an indication that he'll be the unanimous choice to step into Atapattu's boots.

What about Sangakkara? For me he looks an ideal candidate, but at the same time the load of responsibilities might just take the toll on him. He's by far the best batsman in the line-up right now, moreover Sanga does an amazing job behind the stumps. Plus, I admire the way he lifts the morale of the guys by his comments from behind the stumps. Putting him on the hot-seat right now might not be the wisest thing to do.

Therefore, my choice is Mahela Jayawardena. A classy batsman with a lot of rigour. I think he's capable of handling pressure extremely well and has substanbtial leadership qualities on and off the field.

Sunday, December 25, 2005

2005 - Year of turmoil!

Following the Boxing Day Tsunami, Sri Lanka’s most loved game submerged into oblivion with the wake of 2005. The Test and One-Day series against New Zealand taking place at that time was adjourned indefinitely… the tragedy and the devastation made Cricket irrelevant…

An year later, with the memories of the waves slowly but surely fading, so are hopes of a bright 2006! With a new administration and a new coach, Sri Lanka enjoyed a short honeymoon, trashing the Windies, Bangladesh and even India with no sweat, but a disastrous away series with a resurgent Indian team has plunged Sri Lankan cricket into a depression.

Shortage of talent, incompetence, lack of self-belief and to a certain extent politics has thrust the game into a desperate, deplorable situation. Only time will tell if we can get out of it?

New men in the block
Lasith Malinga, Upul Tharanga, Malinda Bandara and Farveez Maharoof are the rising young stars to keep an eye on. The selectors will do well to give them every opportunity and preserve them in the long run.

‘The moment’ in 2005 (for ME!!!!!!)
Tuesday 9th August, Indian Oil Cup finals between the SL and India. Chasing 280 plus to win India got off to a flyer. Virender Shewag thrashed Dilhara Lokuhettige for 26 runs in one over. Vaas gets the ball and Ganguly gets a single off the first delivery. Shewag on strike! The crowd goes “Vaasi… Vaasi….. Vaasi..” in unison! Vaasi strikes! Shewag gone….. bowled!!!!! What a moment!

What does 2006 hold?
Unless the shortcomings cannot be addressed immediately, possibilities of a resurgence look blurred. It’s all about the players themselves improving their own game and to support it, a flawless administration. Tough series beckon against Australia, Pakistan and England.

One last hurrah!!
The team leaves to Kiwi land to resume the One-day series from where it stopped. The first of four remaining One-dayers will be worked off on the 31st of December. One last hurrah for 2005?

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Another collapse!

Another collapse. Its 3 out of 3. Worst of all, the guys proved that they were just ordinary in the bowling department as well. Half way through day1, India staring down the barrel at 97-5. Then what is expected of the fielding captain? Simple - Go for the kill! Attack! Attack! Attack! Have close-in fielders, get your best men to bowl, apply pressure every way you can and get them out for 150! Fine, maybe a lower order batsman can get into form or maybe they get a stroke of luck in the field to get them past the 200 mark, maybe 225 the most. But, you dont let them score 398! 398?!?!?!

Then it was our batsmen's turn to steal the show - doing what their best known for doing during the last few months - get reasonable starts and tamely throw their wickets away! Shame...!

One thing i fail to comprehend is how spinners like Harbhajan and Kumble are able to skittle through the Sri Lankan innings. I'm not taking anything away from them, as they're 2 of the world's best spinners. BUT, we got Murali, who's by far the world best spinner of all time, bowling at out batsmen in the nets day-in and day-out. If out batsmen practice for Murali's bowling everyday, why cant they negate the effect caused by the Indian duo?

Getting back to the test match in progress. India scored 398 as a result of SL losing the grip unexpectedly. Initiative killed. Fine, perfectly understood. But all is not lost, isn't it? Set individual targets, targets for each session and try to obtain a first innings lead, at least close the gap as much as possible. We've got fine batsmen, hungry to prove a point or two, so it isn't impossible. Where's the unrelenting intensity we displayed during the glory days? Where's the hunger?!?

Saturday, December 17, 2005

The Jayasuriya factor

On the eve of the 3rd test to be worked off in Ahmedabad, it’s pertinent to focus attention on the overlooking of Jayasuriya for the test series. Jayasuriya is the country’s most capped player with 100 Tests and also the highest run getter in both forms of the game. Jayasuriya is by far the greatest player ever produced by Sri Lanka, and everybody knows that he can be a nightmare for even the best bowlers in the world, when he’s on song. A tremendous amount of attention is evident in the media (print and electronic) on the theme that how Jayasuriya would have been a major factor. My opinion is that the selectors made the initial mistake of forcing a half-fit Jayasuriya into the one-day series, which lead to his repulsing in the Test series. He had a dismal series in the ODIs scoring less than 100 runs in 6 outings. But that’s understandable isn’t it? – He’s only 50% fit! What the presence of a half-fit Jayasuriya did for the series is simple – first of all, it deteriorated his injury, his confidence level was forced into a rock bottom state, and most importantly gave the Indians the upper hand early in every game. (Jayasuriya’s wicket early in the game is half the battle won!). Jayasuriya would have easily been rested for the ODIs in order to have him fully fit for the Test matches.

Back in Sri Lanka, Jayasuriya is getting his act right and putting quick-fire fifties for his club – Bloomfield. It’s clear that Jayasuriya has a lot more cricket left in him, though he’s 36. Maybe he’s not the hurricane we saw in 1996, but he’s matured over the years to form an integral part in the line-up. His mere presence in the team can be a psychological boost. Under any circumstances, it’s the duty of the cricketing authorities to preserve Jayasuriya until the World Cup in 2007.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Mubarak or Arnold?

Following Sri Lanka’s test defeat there’s a lot of opinion expressed that Russell Arnold, instead of Jehan Mubarak would’ve been a better choice to replace injured Chamara Kapugedara. Mubarak, who hasn’t had a good enough first class record in the recent past was rushed in as the replacement. Why not Arnold? Arnold has been a proven performer in both forms of the game over the years, but has failed to live up to the ‘Mr. Reliable’ tag he earned, say 5 years ago. I remember the time when Arni was able to win matches single handedly from virtually hopeless situations. But since late, he’s lacked the all important consistency and has thrown his wicket at critical times. So then, was Mubarak the correct choice? Looking at his batting in the first innings and superb fielding, I feel his selection was justified, but at the cost of Arni? It’s a tough one…
Nevertheless, whether it was Arnold or Murabak, the Sri Lankan middle order batsman must take blame for the defeat.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

India 1-up in the Test Series

The opening day of the test match belonged to Sachin, who recorded the highest number of Test centuries surpassing his guru Sunil Gavaskar, the second day belonged to Murali, who ran through the Indian batting, but towards the end of the same day, “45 minutes of madness” can be regarded as the main cause of our defeat. That collapse was indeed the turning point of the game, after Sri Lanka was strongly placed to obtain a big first innings lead, but instead ended up with a 60 run deficit. Nevertheless, Sri Lanka could have salvaged a honouable draw if a repeat performance of the first innings had been avoided. Towards the end of the fourth day Sri Lanka looked to be in a promising position, but once again hand over the advantage to India with yet another collapse akin to the first innings.

I am failing to comprehend not one, but two batting collapses in the Sri Lankan middle order. It’s unimaginable how the susceptible middle order has failed time and time again. After Muralitharan changed the odds in favour of the Lankans, it is expected of the batsman to diligently consolidate the position. True that Murali just got a solitary wicket in the 2nd innings, but that’s understandable, after all he’s no superman.
Had the middle order delivered instead of faltering in two crucial occasions, the match would have been easily saved, or even won.

Monday, December 12, 2005

"45 minutes of madness"

It’s stumps on day 3 on the 2nd Test match in Delhi. The guys approached this match positively after 2 days of good cricket in the rain-affected match in Chennai. But right now, the game is very precariously poised. For starters, Murali spun his magic to restrict the Indians to 290 after they started day 2 strongly on 245 for 3. Then I thought Mahela and Marvan batted brilliantly, only to let themselves down. Batting strongly on 175-2 Sri Lanka tamely handed over the advantage to India when they lost 4 good wickets for 23 runs in what coach Moody described as “45 minutes of madness.” India is currently having a substantial lead and can exert enough pressure on us to get into a match winning position. Well, to put your money on a Sri Lankan victory from here is not the best thing to do, but we all know cricket is funny game. Lets see how the last 2 days unfolds.

Sunday, December 11, 2005

Cricket lovely Cricket!

I’ve always had a passion for the game from the time I was like 3! I guess I can call myself a die-hard cricket fan. To see Sri Lanka victorious is always a glorious sight; it’s a pity that it’s a rarity these days. Can anyone explain what happened to the boys in the one-day series in India? 6-1? Was it over-confidence after incomprehensive victories over Bangladesh and a depleted West Indian side? Atapattu’s leadership lacking aggression? Or was it a dilemma in team selection? The reasoning is far beyond my comprehension.

Considering the game’s glorious uncertainties, I am never a prophet of doom. I always think positively when it comes to Sri Lankan cricket. I believe that victories could be found from virtually hopeless situations. My thinking was no different when our guys were 3-0 down after demoralizing defeats on the hands Rahul Dravid’s men. I kept thinking positively, and believed in Atapattu’s captaincy to make a match out of the next 4 outings, and go on to win the series 4-3. But alas, it wasn’t to be.

To my knowledge, the last time that we were in such a slump was during the time revolving around the 1999 World Cup. The team eventually got out of it, but to-date has failed to display the consistency demonstrated during the golden era of SL cricket – the 96/97 season. When will we find back our lost laurels in ODIs?

With the Indian Test Series ongoing and a heavy away schedule ahead (ODI series in New Zealand, Tri-nation in Australia, and Asia Cup in Pakistan) the boys need to get everything right to get back on track, and keep their hopes alive to bring back the World Cup in 2007. Maybe the guys lack application, or maybe what’s required is a change in attitude and most importantly radical decisions will have to be made. Whatever has to be done, its imperative to bring back the glory days of the Ranatunga- De Silva era, sooner rather than later.

Only time will tell…. Lets wait and see.