Tightrope walk to World Cup 2011

Hope that the Lankan World Cup sail does not hit any storms on its way. Yet, the way the drag points, definitely it’s not going to be smooth sailing.

The unforeseen rain soaked the Test series against the West Indies and it became a damp squib while the limited overs series was washed away into the oblivion.

The plus point in the whole exercise was the reclaiming of the top spot in the ICC batting fortunes by skipper Kumar Sangakkara who did his job like a real leader should do but, the minus was the relegation of Sri Lanka into the fifth spot in Test rankings in the ICC table.

Yet, it must be said the West Indies-Sri Lanka series was drawn up many moons ago and the man sitting at the ICC table may have known October and November of any year are monsoon months, but, not a relentless deluge that was going to drag into December. So there is some excuse for him – whoever it is.

Now the problems are mounting. In just nineteen days could the wizards of the State Engineering Corporation and their co-contracts transform the war-ravaged-like stadiums into habitable World Cup venues?

I am not Rumpletenskin or some gawky soothsayer, but, in all honesty, I think the work on the three World Cup venues cannot be completed by December 31, 2010. In the same breath we also would like to know what the repercussions would be if the Lankan management fails to do so? I am talking about the Sri Lankan leg of the 2011 World Cup. It is not only the sympathetic Sri Lankans who would be at the venues, but, cricket enthusiasts from all over the world would come here to witness a spectacle in motion.

It cannot be denied that the handling of this project from the very inception was not the smoothest, and many a doomsday prophet predicted that this eventuality would come to pass.

The other day I happened to read the new sports minister appealing to the media not to criticise the forthcoming World Cup run, but to give their fullest support. So we at this end chose not to hit out. Nevertheless good friends always lead their friends up the correct path and we have chosen to do so. Or else if everyone decides to weave the invisible cloth around this exercise, the SLC hierarchy may end up walking naked on the streets of Colombo, Kandy and Hambantota.

So, right now the Lankans are facing two vital questions. The first is: Can they get the R. Premadasa Stadium, Pallekelle Stadium and the Hambantota Stadium – the first one was revamped and the other two are brand new venues – up to the ICC requirements before the deadline?

The second question is: Can the Lankan selectors reach a conclusion with regard to the final 30 players without any reverberations in the aftermath?

We learn that the names of the final 30 players have to be handed over by December 19 to the ICC and the selectors are still undecided about what the composition would be.

Hypothetically they may have a final composition that would read as: T.M. Dilshan, Upul Tharanga, Mahela Jayawardena (Vice captain), Kumar Sangakkara (Captain), Angelo Mathews, Thilan Samaraweera, Chamara Kapugedara, Suraj Randiv, Ajantha Mendis, Rangana Hearth, Lasith Malinga, Nuwan Kulasekera, Tissara Perera, Dilhara Fernando, Chamara Silva, Jeewan Mendis, Muttiah Muralitharan, Dinesh Chandimal, Suranga Lakmal, Dhammika Prasad, Thilina Thushara, Thilina Kandamby, Lahiru Thirimanne, Chanaka Welagedera, Shaminda Eranga, Chinthaka Jayasinghe, Farveez Maharoof, Kosala Kulasekera, Mahela Udawatte, Dilshan Munaweera, Dimuth Karunaratne, Isuru Udana, Chaminda Vaas and Sanath Jayasuriya.

The list contains 34 names and barring a few to be added or subtracted the majority should be in contention. During the first sitting of the selectors on Tuesday, they could not arrive at the correct equation and they may have to complete it by tomorrow at least so that it can take the rest of the natural course before it reaches the ICC custodians in Dubai.

I envy the task at hand of the national selectors especially on one issue. That is the inclusion of Chaminda Vaas and Sanath Jayasuriya into the final fray. There is no issue the two cricketers are true champions on their own merit, but, could the inclusion of the two veterans bring any friction into the dressing room?

Either way, the selectors should be well prepared to face the consequences. However, in our opinion, the inclusion of Vaas may only strengthen the Lankan fortunes as he may forge the deadly threesome with Malinga and Muralitharan up in the Lankan attack.

Another disturbing factor is the persistence of the selectors with unproven talents of Chamara Kapugedera and Chamara Silva. Though immensely talented, both these batsmen have let down the faith kept in them and the national cause on more than one occasion. Chamara Silva batted well during the last World Cup in the Caribbean, but since then he has not batted to his true potential. “One swallow does not make a summer” – that is Chamara Kapugedera. His bursts have come too far apart.

However, unlike Angelo Mathews, neither batsman has shown any maturity in spite of their prolonged stay. As a result, still the Lankan selectors have not been able to bridge the gap in the middle order.
Another batsman whom I feel was a victim of circumstances was left hander Thilina Kandamby. A calm operator, unlike the above mentioned, he has played many match-winning innings for his country, but, always ended up at the receiving end because of his faulty fielding. But, there is a school of thought that has the notion that fielding is one discipline that any cricketer can be trained upon.

In the same vein now that the West Indian tour has been put back to end of January, some feel it may be more detrimental to the Lankan cause than a pre-world cup boon. In their tests in Test Cricket the West Indians passed with flying colours and when they comeback they would be in a better frame of mind and would be out to make an impression against one of the hot favourites to walk away with the 2011 Cricket World Cup. On their part they have nothing to lose.

As for the Sri Lankans they would be walking tightrope because by then the World Cup final fifteen would be out and they cannot afford any imminent injury. At the same time, youngsters with potential like Angelo Mathews, Tissara Perera, Suraj Randiv and Ajantha Mendis are treading into their maiden World Cup challenges and any drawbacks against the West Indies may build a negative impact on them. So the next two months in Lankan cricket is indeed a tightrope walk.

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