From the fancied to
On October 14, Sri Lankans were cock-a-hoop, after
they destroyed the West Indians in the last of the qualifying games
of the ICC Champions Trophy. Reigning Champs, a team currently in
good form, Brian Lara’s men could not reach three figures
as a unit and the Sri Lankans were being touted as a team who could
carry away the trophy.
Ten days later, as they trooped onto Indian soil
in Ahmedabad, for the last occasion on this tour to congratulate
the South Africans, their chances had blown away. Young Fervez Mahroof
rocked the Windies with six wickets – the best performance
in the tournament. From then it has been downhill in the next three
games, with the last against the Proteas being the worst. Yes, it
can be a cruel game! There is much to learn from every experience
and that is what Mahroof has to remember.
This tournament is such that a team cannot drop
their guard even for a period of four or five overs. The farourites
Australia would have realized that after the game against the West
Indians. Chasing a not very big target of two hundred and twenty
odd they lost wickets at crucial stages which helped the West Indians
to keep coming back. Poor shot selection and a run out were the
causes of the dismissals. Now they are fighting to stay in the competition.
The same happened to the Sri Lankans. They should
have got past Pakistan, particularly after the manner in which they
scored in the initial twenty five overs. Into the thirty fourth
over they were 171 for 3 wickets. What happened in the hour that
followed took the game away from Sri Lanka and as if transpired
a place in the semi final too. The 254 they scored proved to be
inadequate as Abdul Razak made merry in the end and Pakistan romped
home with overs to spare.
This tournament todate has also proved that at
present there is not much difference in strength amongst seven teams.
That is in one day cricket. Australia, India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka,
West Indies, New Zealand and South Africa have all got sufficient
ability to defeat any opposition on the day. Having to battle against
the playing surfaces and conditions has also added another dimension,
to test the players.
As a result the first team to qualify to compete
in the last four was New Zealand. Not too many cricket fans would
have had their money on the Black Caps to get there. They did so
by playing intelligent cricket against South Africa and Pakistan.
Their leader Stephen Fleming became the captain to lead his country
in most number of ODI’s. It was the two innings that he played
which laid the platform for the team’s victories. On these
types of pitches, where run scoring is laborious, numbers one, two
and three play a huge part. One of them must bat well into the second
half of the innings and pile a seventy five plus score.
A general analysis shows that it was the batting
that let them down. In the first defeat to Pakistan they should
have scored 25 – 30 more runs. In the second defeat to Pakistan
they got nowhere near the South African score of 219 runs. The second
game exposed one of Sri Lanka’s continued weaknesses –
inability to play the moving ball. The nine wickets to be captured
by the bowlers was the combined responsibility of, Pollock (2),
Ntini (2), Nel (3), Kallis (1), and Kemp (1). Recognized left arm
spinner Robin Peterson was not tried for even one single over. It
is now common knowledge that when the ball seams around Sri Lankan
That is part of their present problem. The other
and main concern is the lack of two bowlers to deliver at the death.
The ideal is to have quick bowlers who can deliver pin point accurate
Yorkers, well disguised slower deliveries and straight short of
a good length deliveries that rise upto about rib cage height.
Lasith Malinga fits the bill upto a point. Vaas
has dropped in pace now and looks better finishing his overs early.
Veteran, experienced and highly successful spinners Muralitharan
and Jayasuriya seem to be happy to finish their overs before the
last half-a-dozen when the slog begins. It does not leave too many
options. On this issue it will have to be, back to the drawing board,
before the next ODI assignments.