SLC blames Fitness issues for World Cup Failure

By Dion Michael

Sri Lanka’s cricket fans who are still trying to get over the disappointment of our World Cup debacle were on Friday evening treated to another pathetic performance – this time by the Sri Lanka Cricket authorities who tried to blame the country’s failure on fitness issues and said that they would be very tough on player fitness in the future.

Everything it seemed was caused by fitness issues and had nothing to do with lopsided strategy, selection blunders, poor form, ill-planned itineraries or in-fighting among the coaches.

“This [fitness] is an area we need to address and take hard decisions about players who don’t meet the new standards we will set,” said Chief Selector Sanath Jayasuriya — a member of Sri Lanka’s 1996 World Cup-winning team in a post-mortem of Sri Lanka’s failure.  Jayasuriya added that officials will draw up new standards to ensure better fitness and take “hard decisions” about players who were below par.

Jayasuriya said five players—Dinesh Chandimal, Dimuth Karunaratne, Dhammika Prasad, Jeevan Mendis and Rangana Herath — had to be replaced during the tournament because of injuries.

Sri Lanka did set up a record of sorts by being the team to seek the most replacements from the Technical Committee but it must be remembered that three of the five replacements were actually due to bone fractures and this had nothing to do with the player’s fitness.

Before the tournament began Prasad had to quit owing to a fractured wrist and Karunaratne and Herath broke their fingers and had to miss out. It was only Chandimal and Mendis who suffered hamstring injuries which were clearly due to a lack of fitness.

Fitness again must be down to each individual to take responsibility for his own fitness level. When Kumar Sangakkara at 37 can keep wickets for 50 overs and then come in and bat throughout the innings it shows what commitment he has to his personal fitness.

A lopsided selection approach and limited playing opportunities resulted in good experienced players like Upul Tharanga being left out of the original squad. Tharanga got just one game in the five-match ODI series in India where he fared reasonably well but was dropped after the game.

Dimuth Karunaratne performed well as a test opener but was surprisingly added to the one-day team purely on his performance in the five-day game. Sachithra Senanayake is no longer the bowler he was after he remodeled his action and he should never have been in the squad without proving himself.

The role of the management team is also puzzling. What instructions were given to young Kusal Perera when he went out to open the innings in the quarter final against South Africa? It is easy to blame the youngster for throwing his wicket away – but was he also merely following orders to try and bash the bowlers off their line?

The hastily arranged 5-match ODI series against India upset the rhythm of the players who had just begun training for the World Cup. The thrashing also left some scars.

The 3-month tour to New Zealand seemed like a good idea but it may have been a tad too long and the team would have been a trifle jaded after such a long tour.

Coach Marvan Atapattu and skipper Angelo Mathews were associated with Jayasuriya at the press conference.

Mathews, said he was disappointed with the top order batting that led to the defeat against South Africa.

“We did well in the first six matches, but then our top order batting failed, our fielding levels also dropped,” Mathews said, adding that losing as many as five players from the original squad of 15 left the team unbalanced.

Coach Marvan Atapattu said Sri Lanka was not considered favourites, but he nevertheless expected the team to make it to the semifinals.

“They have performed below my expectations. I thought we could win a quarter final. From there on, we would have had a good chance,” he said. Atapattu took over the team as its coach in September after Englishman Paul Farbrace abruptly quit months earlier to become deputy coach of England.

All things considered, Sri Lanka’s exit at the quarter finals was as good as they deserved given the quality of cricket that they produced. They lost badly to New Zealand and Australia, edged out Afghanistan and had emphatic wins over England, Bangladesh and Scotland.

They owed their success to individual batting performances where Sangakkara (541 runs) was brilliant and well supported by Tillekeratne Dilshan (395) and Lahiru Thirimanne (302).

Apart from this trio the others were hugely disappointing. Mahela Jayawardene made exactly 100 in a match-winning effort against Afghanistan but could manage only 25 more runs in his other four innings.

Our fielding which was once our big asset was abysmal and the bowling lacked sting. Lasith Malinga tried valiantly but he lacked support. We regularly conceded over 15 runs per over in the last ten overs of an innings and dropped at least five catches in each game.

Sri Lanka’s next international assignment will be in June when they host Pakistan for a full-fledged series comprising two Tests, five One-Day Internationals and two Twenty20s.

This was the first time since the 1999 World Cup held in England that Sri Lanka had failed to secure a place among the final-four places.

In 2007 and 2011 they were runners up to Australia and India respectively while the Kangaroos beat them in the semifinal of the 2003 World Cup held in South Africa.



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