Chairman of selectors cum Manager, Asantha de Mel observed on Monday that Sri Lanka’s failure to go the distance in the 2019 ICC Cricket World Cup was mainly because the middle order batsmen lacked the confidence to bat positively. “The middle order batsmen did not bat positively because they were scared to get out. We need to play the Sri Lankan brand of cricket fearlessly and not put bowlers on top.”
De Mel, who was speaking at the post world cup press briefing at Sri Lanka Cricket said that however, although Sri Lanka had failed to qualify for the world cup semi-finals, he was overly satisfied with the overall performance of the team.
“There seems to be some sort of stabilization of the top order batting from number one to six, and the middle order is settling in. I would say that four of them namely skipper Dimuth Karunaratne, Kusal Janith Perera, Kusal Mendis and Lahiru Thirimanne could continue to play and be around for the nest world cup while in the case of Angelo Mathews it would all depend on his fitness. As for Kusal Mendis, he was satisfied with the potential displayed by the right hander considering the fact that he was just 23 years and very talented. The stabilization of the top six needed to be further built on in the home series against Bangladesh. Either of this players could be replaced only by very consistent performances by other contenders. In that line Jehan Jayasuriya who had being batting very well with a few centuries on tour for the SL A team and Niroshan Dickwella too who had done well were the nearest contenders. As for Dinesh Chandimal he would have to force his way with some exceptional batting performances. The bowlers did a reasonably good job, but unfortunately they did not have adequate totals to bowl at. That was where the problem was. The fielding during the world cup was good. Sri Lanka was the No.2 fielding side in the tournament up to the match against the West Indies. There was only one dropped catch. I would say that winning three out of seven games was a 50 per cent achievement.
De Mel went on to praise the captaincy and batting of Dimuth Karunaratne with whom he said he was satisfied for the future. “It was the first time Dimuth captained and under pressure he did a good job.” He said that young Avishka Fernando had also happily proved that he was a player for the future. It was just unfortunate that he missed out on a good part of the early matches due to a twisted ankle during the first practice match. It was also unfortunate that Sri Lanka did not get the desired results from the two leg spinners Jeevan Mendis and Jeffrey Vandersay. But there was nothing much we could do about it because we do not have that many spinners and we took the two who had performed well in the domestic tournament. Another factor was that teams like India and England had adopted the strategy of their opening batsmen hitting bowlers out of the attack from the very start no matter how good a bowler was. In the circumstances only Lasith Malinga had weathered that storm. In the case of Thisara Perera he was satisfied with his bowling because although he was not among the wickets he had bowled quite economically conceding around 35 to 40 in his ten overs. Such a bowler would always remain in his team. Isuru Udana too had proved that he was a paceman who could rise to the occasion while it was also unfortunate that Nuwan Pradeep who had been doing a fine job as a new ball bowler was suddenly laid out by contracting chicken pox.
Meanwhile, Head Coach, Chandika Hathurusinghe, responding to questions, said that he would continue in his job with the Sri Lanka team with seventeen more months ahead according to his contract.
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-