Sri Lanka – Fatigued Or Inconsistent?
By Dinouk Colombage
Sri Lanka’s fortunes have suffered a drastic fall in the space of two matches as they were completely outplayed in their first two games of the Asia Cup.
Having come off a satisfactory tour of Australia, Sri Lanka was looking firm favourites to clinch the Asia Cup. Two resounding losses at the hands of India and Pakistan have opened the door to a debate of whether or not Sri Lanka’s resurgence was short lived.
In the first game it was their bowlers who let them down, a solid start tailed off that allowed India to post a 300 plus score that included two centuries. Their batsmen failed to make a fist of the match, falling away after Mahela Jayawardena and Kumar Sangakarra had departed.
The second time around it was Sri Lanka’s batsmen that were to blame as they were bowled out for a paltry 183 on a batter friendly wicket. In the pursuit of a large total, Sri Lanka were found wanting at the hands of a disciplined Pakistani bowling outfit. The night only got worse as Sri Lanka’s bowlers were unable to find that extra push in themselves to deliver the knockout blow after having Pakistan struggling at 33-3.
Now the team has a dead rubber against hosts Bangladesh before the return to the island to take on a well drilled English outfit in two tests.
The question that now needs to be posed is whether Sri Lanka’s poor showing in Bangladesh is due to fatigue or inconsistency.
The team has been on the road since the middle of December; having taken part in a gruelling tour of South Africa before going on to Australia where they took part in an evenly contested triangular one day series against the hosts and India.
Going in to that contest many had written of Sri Lanka’s chances, by then end of it despite losing the finals Sri Lanka was viewed as having been the best team on show. Aggressive and fearless batting, athletic fielding and suffocating bowling were the hallmarks of the Sri Lankans down under.
Back in the sub-continent it has been the complete opposite; lacklustre bowling, timid batting and appalling fielding has seen the team suffer an early exit.
In Australia the opening partnership of Mahela Jayawardena and Tillakaratne Dilshan was the difference between Sri Lanka and the other two sides. A no fear approach to batting coupled with a sense of arrogance and daringness was the trademark of their partnership. In Kumar Sangakarra they had a number three who could keep the momentum going the way of the Sri Lankans.
The top three has continued to show glimpses of their form this time around with both Jayawardena and Sangakarra keeping the Sri Lankans in the hunt with the bat in the first game.
It was Sri Lanka’s middle order that had been the most promising aspect of their performance in the Commonwealth Bank Series. Dinesh Chandimal showed off his talent with the bat solid contributions throughout the tournament. Lahiru Thirimanne cemented his spot in the middle order showing that he had the technique to play against world class bowling.
The slower less responsive wickets of Bangladesh seem to have stumped the pair as neither Chandimal nor Thirimanne have been able to reproduce the form that was on show in Australia. Two poor performances will not have damaged their future prospects in the team, but certainly it will leave some questions over their ability to back up their performances.
Sri Lanka has once again been left frustrated by the fitness concerns surrounding Angelo Mathews. Being forced to sit out the finals of the tour of Australia, Mathews withdrew from the Asia Cup due to an ongoing injury. His form with the bat was not spectacular in Australia, and he has shown that despite his prowess with the ball he cannot perform the two disciplines simultaneously. A big loss for Sri Lanka no doubt, the selectors and the supporters alike will hope to see the vice-captain fully fit in time for the test series.
Is Lasith Malinga nearing the end of his career? A hostile fast bowler capable of troubling batsmen around the world; certainly not a commodity Sri Lanka will want to let go of easily. Yet his time with the ball has been poor, showing that he has struggled to come to terms with the new two ball rule. No longer burdened with test cricket, fatigue cannot be an excuse for Malinga’s below par performances. Credit will go to the selectors if they take the punt and drop the speedster opening the door for younger players.
Sri Lanka has shown signs of improvement, especially under the captaincy of Jayawardena. Ian Chappell went as far as to call him ‘the best modern day captain in cricket’. However, their disappointing run in the Asia Cup will bring back memories of a team who struggled to perform less than six months ago.
With still a home test series to come, the selectors would find it wise to rest their key players and look to end the season on a high.