Three little words

Faith, confidence and belief are three of the most powerful words in a man's life. If you convert the real meaning of these words into practice I feel that everything they touch could turn into gold and be a tremendous success in any task they undertake.

The most glaring example that I could think in the present context is the conversion of Tillekeratne Dilshan who has changed his image from a just another middle order batsman to super star opener who has taken the cricketing world by storm.

Besides Dilshan, there is also the Indian opener Gautam Gambhir who also has converted himself from an in-and-out Indian batsman to a regular figure in any of the Indian outfits. Now he is a person who is being compared with some of the greatest names that has graced the Indian turf.

There is a stark similarity in the ascendancy in their careers. Both these batsmen graduated from their exploits in the T20 circuit.

In the first season of the IPL Gambhir's prowess in the shorter version of the game was so evident the Indian selectors gave him the nod in their national outfit and he converted that into all forms of the game.
In the second season of the IPL Dilshan's power hitting in the top order was so evident he just commandeered the Lankan national opening berth and converted that into all forms of the game in his own inimitable style.

Now the accent has shifted to T.M. Dilshan. The day that Dilshan scores, even a score of 400 runs scored by the opposition, does not look so huge.

What was common between these two cricketers evidently is that they had faith in their ability and believed that they could do and had the confidence to hold their form under any given circumstance.

Once after Dilshan had scored an explosive century in a Test match on an indifferent wicket former Lankan captain Mahela Jayawardena also made a big score in a different manner. After the innings Jayawardena quipped, "Batting along with Dilshan at the other end, I thought that he was batting on a completely different wicket - he made it all look so easy".

That is the confidence that Dilshan has as an individual. But, as a team what is our conversion rate? What is our game plan?

The year 2009 is now over. Come 2010 we will be concentrating mostly on the limited overs version of cricket and a month hence in 2011 February we walk into that all important World Cup which will take place in our own backyard.

Sri Lanka won the World cup when it was played at the same venue way back in 1996. One evident fact then was that though still considered rookies, Sri Lanka did have a game plan. They did not have the greatest bowling attack at that time, and the Lankans opted to become chasers - the more difficult of the two options.

Nevertheless there was another hard fact. Around 18 months prior to the World Cup the Lankans had a steady side where everyone knew what their exact role was.

Jayasuriya, Kaluwitharana, Asanka Gurusinha, Aravinda de Silva, Arjuna Ranatunga, Roshan Mahanama, Hashan Tillekeratne, Kumara Dharmasena, Chaminda Vaas Pramodya Wickremasinghe and Muttiah Muralitharan all knew that they had to deliver. In the periphery there was Ravindra Pushpakumara, Upul Chandana and Marvan Atapattu in case of injury.

In that combination the number one spin option was Kumara Dharmasena over the budding Muttiah Muralitharan. In fact Dharmasena was never the best spinner that Sri Lanka ever produced, but, how the Lankan management had faith in him and gave him the confidence to believe in himself and made him deliver the goods, is a story of its own.

Dharmasena described his experience - "Once Arjuna called me and said, you are in the side and this is what I expect from you and just keep yourself within those limits and nothing will go wrong. Then I knew exactly what was expected of me and my job became that much easy".

But, all that build-up now has weaned. Till a few moons ago the Lankans pinned their faith on Sanath Jayasuriya and the day he scores the Lankans drink champagne. Now the accent has shifted to T.M. Dilshan. The day that Dilshan scores, even a score of 400 runs scored by the opposition, does not look so huge.

But, do we have a fall back plan? The day that Dilshan fails to score does the Lankan team have a batsman who would put his hand up and say I will stick around till the end and the rest of you guys bat around me. No, I have not seen that happening in the Lankan camp, maybe during the last decade.
Maybe the best thing that has happened to Sri Lanka cricket lately is the dropping of Jayasuriya from the opener's slot and getting Upul Tharanga to open.

Evidently Tharanga has got the message and there is a glitter of belief in his eyes. Hope the pundits would not think of another hash in case of a few failings.

The Lankan bowling is completely out of its depth. There isn't one bowler in the present lot who are operating in India, who could command the respect of the opposition, how Indian spinner Harbhajan Singh does to the Lankan batsmen. Even during high scoring exchanges the Lankan batsmen paid their share of respect to Harbhajan.

Then what happened to the ICC's No. 1 ranked ODI bowler few months ago? Now Nuwan Kulasekera can hardly command a permanent slot in the running Xl!

As I see the Lankans have not lost their talent. But, where they have gone wrong is their direction. There is no one in the playing Xl or in its immediate environ who could say "Come boys this is our game plan".
I still remember the very first words that former Lankan coach Dav Whatmore shared with me. "Technically there is very little that I can teach you guys. You are a very talented side. But, if at all what I can do is try to change your way of thinking and the approach to the game". How right he was. He knew the meaning of the three little words - faith, confidence and belief.

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