An opening contest that has whipped up tremendous pre-match hype by the hour with hundreds of local cricket fans scrambling for tickets in the heat up to bowling icon Lasith Malinga’s farewell to ODI cricket, indeed the curtain raiser does assume a blockbuster dimension as Sri Lanka and Bangladesh locks horns today at 2.30 p.m.in the day-night encounter at the R. Premadasa International Cricket Stadium.
From a Sri Lankan point of view, the generating interest of a 21 million cricket crazy populace is wanting to see their hero bid adieu on a winning note against a Bangladesh outfit that on the form book does enjoy an edge over the host country. Coming head on straight from the world cup Bangladesh pack the firepower that saw them ahead of Sri Lanka in the equation and just failing to make it to the semi-finals of the world cup on the back of some rollicking cricket. All in all Tamim Iqbal’s charges pack compatible all-round depth with their batting, bowling and fielding equally supplementing each other to world class proportions. Their batting runs deep despite not having the services of regular skipper Shakib Al Hasan while the bowling is sword edged by a weather beaten pace and spin attack and ably supported by acrobatic fielding.
This is the enormous challenge Dimuth Karunaratne’s charges will have to override in their quest to give their champion bowler Malinga the ideal send off on a winning note. That the Sri Lankans are all pumped up to unleash that champagne streak is bound to carry the intensity of a ding dong battle given the scenario of the added Malinga significance to the first of the 3-match series. Therein while Sri Lanka’s fortunes will lie virtually on the shoulders of the 35-year old great to deliver with the ball in this his final fling to sign off in style, the onus will be as much on the rest of his colleagues to script out spick and span cricket if they are to outwit the high riding Bangladeshis. Malinga will also seek to achieve the three wickets that would put him ahead of Anil Kumble’s record to ninth highest wicket taker. The Malinga hype has certainly drawn the attention of the rest of the cricketing world, not the least Bangladesh whose skipper Iqbal has paid the Sri Lankan the highest tribute in stating ahead that he has been a great ambassador of the game. He is one cricketer a lot of young children after watching him started playing cricket. He is that kind of a figure not only in Sri Lanka but around the world. I still remember when he first came into the scene especially back in Bangladesh people wanted to bowl like him, even when we played Sri Lanka we used to find who had a similar action like Malinga bowling at the nets. That kind of an impact he has given to world cricket.’
Sri Lankan captain Dimuth Karunaratne’s tribute to the legend was in the words that ‘Lasith is a legend he has done a good job for the country for the past 15 years. He was our main bowler in the last few years. We’ll miss him. I don’t think anyone can replace him.’
Sri Lanka is expected to possibly make a few changes to the bowling line up while there will be no change in the batting from the World Cup,
He however stated that with in their side there could be a change in the opening combination. Avishka Fernando is likely to open the batting with Karunaratne to maintain a left-right combination since Bangladesh having two off-spinners with Kusal Janith Perera switching to No.3. on a wicket with a lot of pace and bounce.
By Srian Obeyesekere
-The opinions expressed here are the views of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of Sri Lanka Cricket-